The plot runs as follows. Jennifer Lyons and Charles Brand meet one fateful one in a club. They have banter, they buy drinks (perhaps too many drinks) and they have sex in an alcove of the building. Three days later, Jennifer accuses Charles of rape. Charles claims that there was consent, rejection on his part, and bitterness on hers. Taking place in a mock-courtroom, in a mock-court situation, members of the audience make up the mock-jury in this very clever and very inventive piece of theatre by Liam Rudden and EmeraldBlue.
With such a controversial issue at its heart, Silence in Court can hardly go wrong, and it doesn’t.
Silence in Court works partly because the acting is impeccable. Maxi Moffat was suitably ambiguous as the accused young man and it is nigh impossible to pin down his shiftiness as either nerves or guilt. You want to believe he’s innocent when he explains that he had never had a one-night stand before, and was embarrassed about his wearing comedy underpants on the fateful night. However, when Moffat yells in a violent outburst at the witness, you kick yourself for being sucked in by a man who clearly has anger problems. Chelsea Youngson as Jennifer Lyons was tear-stricken throughout the entirety of the performance. Sometimes heart-breaking to behold, and sometimes looking curiously vindictive, Youngson too was rivetingly hard to read. The two lawyers, played by Anne Kane Howie and Philip Kingscott, were utterly believable and equally cut-throat.
The next thing that makes this show click is simple. Being on a jury is fun. It is in our human nature to want to get to the bottom of things and this show provides us with a juicy case and the opportunity to play detective. You can’t be disengaged in this kind of theatre because you are it. The events are rigged so that it is impossible to work out who is telling the truth and who is lying. There are no witnesses and no evidence. You’ve got to come up with questions to ask the defendants, and then make character judgements based on their responses.
Rape is a topic that makes most people feel uncomfortable. Accepting that this is an important issue which begs discussion, this courtroom drama hones in on each niggling detail, each and every aspect of the problem. It also exposes the faults in the law system. The innocent man can get locked up on the basis of an incorrect gut feeling. The guilty rapist can roam free as a result of a defence lawyer’s slut-shaming speeches. With such a controversial issue at its heart, Silence in Court can hardly go wrong, and it doesn’t. This case has not been closed. It’s you they’re waiting for and you need only give your verdict.