This implausible idea is fascinatingly realised. E.P. Evans' outré history is translated into a play where, if some dramatic mechanisms show through (a few "whoops, exposition" speeches, the hint of a love-triangle), the theatrical tail still doesn't wag the thematic dog. In a small rural community around the French Revolution, a wily lawyer revives animal trials before the ecclesiastical court as a nice little earner: locusts are excommunicated, plagues of rats placed on remand (so any cat that attacks them will be held in contempt) and defence counsel is told "the Word of God is hearsay".
Ton the dog stands (or rather, dozes) in court for all these creatures – a remarkable performance by Ricci Harnett, neither animal-miming nor anthropomorphising, but eloquently pointing up parallels with the underclasses denied a voice in our own law machine. The Diorama's octagonal space and tiers of galleries are put to full and ingenious use, climaxing in a riveting torture/execution/ascension sequence. An admirable mainstream/site-specific theatre crossover; investigate it now, before its too-brief run ends.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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