The Verdict Review

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – until 4 May 2019

Reviewed by James Knight


Frank Galvin, an alcoholic lawyer, is approached with a case against the Catholic Church. The case is of medical malpractice in a church-owned hospital: a young woman, given the wrong type of anaesthesia before childbirth, must now spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state, permanently hooked up to machinery.

It’s a classic David vs Goliath tale, first a book, then an Oscar-nominated film and now Middle Ground Theatre brings it to the stage on its second tour. It’s a compelling story – using and inverting what are now well-known tropes in the courtroom drama.

Not a second is wasted in Margaret May Hobbs’ script. Although we spend most our time with Frank Galvin (Ian Kelsey), we see the other camp preparing as well. Christopher Ettridge portrays defence lawyer J Edgar Concannon with a spirited zeal, carefully orchestrating how his defendants (Dr Rexford Towler and Dr Daniel Crowley, played by Paul Opacic and Michael Lunney, respectively) should present themselves during the trial.

The stage is split in the first act – one side as Galvin’s office, to allow plot development, and the other in Meehan’s Bar, where we get to know Galvin better personally. It’s here that Galvin meets Donna St Laurent (Josephine Rogers), a young woman looking for work as a waitress, and a welcome distraction for Galvin as he prepares his case. The second half is given over purely to the courtroom, a tense battle of wits and understanding of the law, with Galvin fighting not only against Concannon’s seemingly better odds, but also Richard Walsh’s battle-hardened judge, Eldredge Sweeney.

Performances are strong all round, and special mention must go to Michael Lunney and Richard Walsh, who are double cast as Eugene Meehan and Dr Daniel Crowley, and Bishop Brophy and Eldredge Sweeney respectively. Through their performances and clever use of wigs and make-up, it was nigh impossible without glancing at the programme to tell they were the same person each time. Denis Lill as Moe Katz, Galvin’s mentor, also steals every scene he’s in. And finally, Anne Kavanagh as Mrs McDaid, as the plaintiff’s mother, gives a heart-wrenching performance, especially when she rebukes Galvin for turning down the Church’s settlement of $300,000, calling into question Galvin’s personal motives for taking on what seems like an unwinnable case.

The Verdict is a compelling courtroom drama, which, combined with powerful performances, pulls the audience into its world, keeping us riveted to the final moment.