THE ACCUSED
Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1
Opened 5 December, 2000

Jeffrey Archer's courtroom drama is quite possibly the worst written play of the 2000 or so I've seen in my reviewing career.

And his performance in the title role is almost certainly the worst, not excluding my school play when I was eight. He makes Jerry Hall in The Graduate look like Meryl Streep. It's not just that he's deadly dull: paradoxically, he keeps finding fresh ways of being dull, so that you can't stop giggling in derision.

When the play isn't trotting out every cliché in the book hell, in the entire library! it is ridiculing the legal profession in a squalid act of personal revenge by the mendacious Archer. The judge is repeatedly wrong in law, the surgeon defendant and the expert medical witness incorrect on medical points, but the coy references to Archer's own libel trial are present and correct. Several eminent actors try gambolling through the evening in the hope that the mud won't stick to their CVs. At the end, the audience gets to vote on whether Archer's character is guilty: forget the murder, he deserves to hang for having inflicted this farrago on the world.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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