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Waterfront Festival

Court in the Act!

20 January 12 words: Jared Wilson
Improvised comedy Court in the Act! returns to Nottingham after its success at the NEAT11 festival

Court in the Act!The Galleries of Justice is the ultimate stage for any courtroom drama. But if you were expecting a To Kill A Mockingbird-style political drama, think again. In fact the keys to the chamber have been handed over to The British Comedy Company, for an ever-evolving piece of improvised theatre.

Court in the Act! follows the classic structure of the courtroom drama: witnesses are called, questioned and cross-examined by the counsels. What is new, however, is the level of audience participation: Before the show starts suggestions are drawn from the audience of words which the ensuing drama will be built around. Tonight the likes of Twitter, super-injunctions, taxidermy, The Daily Mail and tomatoes will become key focal points to the plot that unfolds. Then, at the end, the jury (made up of 12 members of the audience) give their verdict and the defendant is either condemned or saved.

I’d try and walk you through the storyline, but as you might expect from a play that is improvised differently every night the plot is actually quite loose and random. But as a quick explanation of tonight's action: a man who stuffs dogs with tomatoes is in court for breaching a super injunction about a footballer. Along the way witnesses are called who either fawn over him (his cripplingly shy Kiwi girlfriend) or scathe at him (an embittered Daily Mail gossip journalist).

Peter Wear is excellent as the judge. As a veteran of eighties TV favourites like The Young Ones and the Lenny Henry Show, from the moment he enters the court and trips over into the bench his comedy is endearing old-school Britishness at it’s best. Niall Ashdown and John Voce are equally accomplished in the roles of defence and prosecution attorneys, adlibbing and threading new comedy from each others lines.

Tara Flynn takes on a variety of roles, including the owner of a taxidermy firm and a certain Welsh footballer who has recently taken out a superinjuction. She also displays a strong talent for improvised singing in one section, after being egged-on to do so by her co-stars. Ian McLaughlin is excellent as the defendant, a tomato-loving Catalan man who falls for a horse-loving woman who is so shy she can barely talk. All in all the cast play well together and you can see that they enjoy working together, particularly in such grand surroundings. It’s probably the most fun any of us are likely to have in court anytime soon…

Court in the Act! ran at the Galleries of Justice as part of the NEAT11 festival and will be performed at Nottingham Playhouse between Wednesday 1 and Saturday 4 February 2012.

British Comedy Company website



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