'Someone To Blame' review or 'I'm all for justice - but what about just theatre?'

'Someone To Blame', Tess Berry-Hart
King's Head Theatre, March 9th 2012
Written for The Stage

Agenda-driven plays are often problematic but a blatant campaign, masquerading as verbatim theatre, is downright dodgy. 'Someone To Blame', has been written to highlight the case of Sam Hallam, who was convicted of a murder in a street fight in 2004. There's no doubt the evidence surrounding Sam's conviction is riddled with inconsistencies but Tess Barry Hart's biased play is neither a fair nor powerful way to argue Sam's case.

The police interviews, court transcripts and interviews are held together by a narrative from Sam's campaigner, Paul May. The extracts already feel one-sided and May's constant summaries are unnecessary and even patronising. The play pushes its case too hard and would've been far more persuasive, had Berry-Hart let the facts speak for themselves.

Director David Mercatali makes good use of the modest black-box space and cleverly intersperses his actors throughout the audience. The adaptable ensemble cast plays a rich range of roles and Robin Crouch, as Sam Hallam, is touchingly vulnerable.

But the whole affair feels uncomfortably manipulative. It's a tough one to judge, since criticising this play feels akin to condemning Sam Hallam. Obviously, I'm all for justice but I'm also for just theatre, and this is not it.


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