Jury Duty – Electric Dreams Online

Created by Joe Ball and Tom Black

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As ‘fake news’ sweeps the globe, a triumphantly manipulative tool prioritised by ad-agencies, social media and (distressingly) politicians, more and more the dangers of this digital age manipulation grow. Toying with this concept, highlighting its intrusions in more than the public sphere, into the private, political, and judicial, Exit Productions have crafted a spectacularly innovative, wily, and layered experience of live theatre with Jury Duty.

Everyone has an opinion, now more so than ever, but just how valuable is your judgement? Are barristers and law degrees worth their salt when Mitchell from Sunderland has seen every episode of The Good Wife? If people think they know better than the professionals, well, this is the opportunity to put those binged hours of Making A Murderer to the test. Jury Duty places you and several others in a virtual court, led by the Ministry of Justice themselves. So how will you find the accused?

A fire, a corpse, and a conspiracy which could sweep the news world and send the country into rebellion, Jury Duty focuses on a new fictitious style of court proceedings being trialled across the UK. A virtual jury will question, deduce, and pass judgement on the defence as part of the recently formed Justice Act (2020). The defendant, Harry Briggs, is accused of arson, manslaughter and murder, and as the jury splits themselves to dive through mountains of evidence, question the defendant and come together to forge a verdict, oddities emerge, stories fail to line up and maybe, just maybe, the experience will ripple from the screen and into your real life.

The intricate level of balancing a story, where multiple players can throw a spanner into the works, elevates Jury Duty from a simplistic narrative into a complex production involving masterfully adept improvisation from Tom Black. Able to interact with the defendant is, of course, unusual for the jury, but the layout of Zoom and incorporation of liveness produces a diverse range from Black, who can respond to the good cops, the bad cops and the sympathetic cops with equal ability.

And while it may solely be Black onscreen, a more sinister presence is felt from The Coordinator, Joe Ball, who by the end of the session seems less orchestrator and more problematic. Involving multiple media, Jury Duty leeches itself into other avenues to force Jurors into their own espionage antics and trust exercises. Daring not to spoil an ounce, don’t be surprised if you begin to question everyone and everything. The intertextual play at work is extraordinary, and though it may panic you at first viewing, the series of documents, audio files, riddles and… well, that’s for the jury to discover…are easy to follow.

Then again, spoilers needn’t worry readers, as each session is unique given the dexterity in the team’s manipulation of events, and of course the refresh of jurors between sessions. Gradually these strangers will form a unit, as the case becomes more investible, reinforced by Black’s emotional performance. The incorporation of Zoom enables groups to banter, divulge and share screens to build upon the mystery. Fear not plunging down the rabbit hole, as Exit Productions maintains a guiding hand, and a friendly steer for key moments.

Calculative, Jury Duty builds on a world it carefully stitches, gradually morphing an engaging piece into an in-depth explosion of drama, intrigue, and beguiling storytelling. If there was a crime for innovation, Exit Productions is unquestionably guilty.

Review originally published for The Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/jury-duty-electric-dreams-online-festival/

Continues until 13 August 2020. Tickets and information available from Electric Dreams Festival website.  

My Darling Christopher – Homemakers, HOME

Writers: Jo Sargeant and Clare-Louise English

Director:  Clare-Louise English

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Determined to stretch its capabilities in storytelling during lockdown the Homemakers Project is a series of new commissions. A showcase of diverse talents, ranging from straight dramatic performances to voice-overs, mime artistry and digital editing and deaf dramaturge, My Darling Christopher is a compact film featuring hopeful rising stars as they hone their skillset.

On the shores of foreign soil, away from his family, Christopher, a young Naval officer, reads a letter from his wife on a peculiar encounter their son Clive had while attending Goring school, following his evacuation from Margate’s school for the deaf. A story which focuses on inclusive story mechanics, My Darling Christopher centres on the day a fighter plane crash lands metres from Clive’s classroom.

A young boy at the dawning of war, Clive Davis contracted meningitis, resulting in the loss of his hearing and sight. Navigating his way through life, Clive finds a new way to communicate with his mother and overcome both his lack of senses, but also to survive the war.

Minimal to the story, Robin Paley Yorke’s titular role fulfils a narrative purpose, sat on the shores as he reads the words of his wife Dorothy, her voice-over provided by writer Jo Sargeant. Sargeant captures an elegance, providing a clarity in speech but conveying the delicacy of a concerned mother, as much as a loving wife.

Despite the theatrical nature of the production companies and cast, My Darling Christopher, at only nine minutes, demonstrates canny cinematography, with steady wide shots and the occasional diverse angle when lowering to Clive’s level at school. David Monteith-Hodge’s direction of photography is clean, refraining from over-saturating scenes and focuses on the performers, save for the pilot’s descent which overuses editing effects, superimposing archive footage over a visual vernacular, with the two competing for focus.

Principally the focus lies not with Christopher, but his son Clive, a deaf child whose time at boarding school is opening his mind and improving his confidence. Calling upon the real Clive Davis for authenticity in his performance, along with benefitting from Stephen Collin’s exceptional ability as a deaf dramaturge, William Grint is front and centre the success of My Darling Christopher. The childlike glee, expressive emotions and movements shift the performance from a British Sign Language recitation and into authentic life; Grint is Davis.

The pilot’s infusion of excessive movements, with elements of mime work, Brian Duffy’s fluid movement and precision detract more than it could potentially add, and on occasion even comes off as distasteful. Orchestrating a visual reinforcement of aerial battles, bombardments and assaults over Europe, Duffy’s rapid hand movements are a stark difference from Grint’s earnest performance as Davis. Duffy’s peculiar need to insert exaggerations and, even comic nuances in what seems to suggest a more harrowing scene is off-putting and dips the film into a brief nose-dive.

There is a pull-up, however, as Sargeant’s return as Dorothy to close out the piece leaves a tenderness, reinforced by Grint’s humble performance. My Darling Christopher respects the life of Clive Davis, as equally as it offers a glimpse at the honour that he paid his father. A touching film, which benefits greatly from its promotion of deaf dramaturgy, simply leans too much on editing and poorly integrated visuals.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/my-darling-christopher-homemakers-home/

 Available to rent here

Live in Your Living Room with Magic Gareth – Preview

Feeling like this year has sucked a bit of magic out of the summer? Perhaps after all that home-schooling, some of the little (and older) ones could do with some energising, phantasmic entertainment? Well, ready those special magic words, hold on tight and prepare to be astonished at the wizardry of Magic Gareth Live.

Despite the Edinburgh Festival Fringe taking a hiatus for 2020, that’s no reason not to conjure up your own magic with Gareth! Direct from your home, there’s now the chance to become your very own ‘virtual magician’s assistant’, without even leaving your Pjs. Take your place in a new Magic Circle live on Zoom with up to fifty other guests as you all try to figure out the sorcery before you.

No stranger to the digital medium of performance, and while other acts are still finding their footing with the change in scenery, Gareth has already hosted over 300 live virtual shows to tremendous appreciation and enjoyment. Magic Gareth has been crafted with a whole hat full of tricks, illusions and secrets which have been specifically designed with the viewers in mind.

Spellbinding the nation from August 2nd, Magic Gareth will be hosting his virtual events each morning at 11 am each day until August 9th.

A full list of information relating to shows can be found from Magic Gareth’s website here: https://www.magicgareth.co.uk/live2020.

And if you’re feeling social, why not give Magic Gareth a follow on Facebook?