A Play, A Pie and A Pint runs two plays on alternate days, and the play we saw was called ‘Silence in Court’.
It was billed as an “interactive court room fiction, drawing on real life procedures to create a mock court where the audience are the jury,” which we thought seemed quite fitting, despite us not being in our Litigation Team. And so, with the further alluring promise of a free pie and a pint, we fought our way through the crowds of people on the Mound down to the venue.
We were handed a token each for our pint on arrival and shown where the pies were. Unfortunately, somebody had already eaten the best ones so we had to make do with some fairly unusual alternatives. We just hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come.
A jury had already been selected from members of the audience who had arrived before us, and a burly court officer told us that we should follow his instructions and had to stand when he said so.
In came the judge, the prosecuting lawyer and the defence lawyer, together with a very nervous looking young man in suit and tie. This was the accused, Charles Brand, the son of a minister and of exemplary character. We were told he had been accused of rape, granted not the usual comedy subject for a play on the Fringe, and perhaps why the play has a 12 plus age recommendation.
We settled in to enjoy the play but our Scottish lawyer instincts meant that it was impossible for us to not pick up on the use of some English terminology and procedures, which are not particularly realistic when dealing with events which had taken place in Scotland.
Nevertheless, what followed was a reasonably accurate portrayal of a case involving the classic "he said, she said" tale of a young couple who had met in a night club, got a bit drunk together and then things turned nasty. Who was telling the truth and who was lying through their teeth?
The only witness for the prosecution was well cast as a slightly timid looking and young-for-her-age lady in her early 30s, who refused to be rattled by the elegant lady barrister for the accused, despite the persistent questioning. Was the accused's outburst when she gave her account a sign of his violence beneath the surface? Or was it a real cry for help at the injustice of the position he found himself in?
While we felt some of the questioning was a bit obvious, it was when the judge and lawyers filed off stage and left the Clerk of the Court to ask the jury what questions they had, that this process became really interesting. To give them their dues, the jury had listened very carefully to the evidence and were keen to explore discrepancies in the evidence that bothered them. One member of the jury quoted the body language of the accused and the "victim" as helping to make up his mind about a case where there was no other evidence available; it was also surprising how many people thought that the previous sexual experience of the parties was relevant. The audience was also given the opportunity to raise questions, although they did not take this quite so seriously.
The complainer and the accused then came back onto the stage to be cross examined by the jury, which was where the script was blank. The actors did well to think quickly on their feet and stick to their stories, or make up suitable replies, so were very believable in their roles. A vote was then taken, a foreman elected and the verdict pronounced, with a slight hiccup when the jury foreman announced the wrong verdict, causing much hilarity in court! In the end, we didn't agree ourselves whether "he done it or not", which goes to show that the human factor in such cases is very important.
The real thing most definitely isn’t as relaxed, nor as fast paced, as the play depicted, but overall Audrey and I agreed that it was a very interesting, well performed and enjoyable hour. We recommend getting there early if you want to get picked for the jury…and to get the best choice of pies, which is also not something you often hear in a real courtroom!
Liz MacKay and Audrey Watson, Morton Fraser Later Life Team
A Play, A Pie and A Pint is showing at Venue @ Le Monde, 16 George Street from 6 - 11 August, 13 -18 August and 20 - 25 August at 12.45 and lasts for an hour.