Katie King reviews ‘This Is Your Trial’, the acclaimed improv show
This weekend, following a chance meeting with the show’s producer outside a pub in Oxford Street, I went to watch an acclaimed court-based improv show called ‘This Is Your Trial’.
Described rather aptly on its website as “Judge Judy meets Whose Line Is It Anyway”, the show promises to be a unique experience for its viewers.
And that really is the show’s strongest selling point. Its format was very different to comedy shows I’ve seen in the past.
For starters, there weren’t really any ‘viewers’ at all. Everyone — in some way or another — was a part of the show.
This is how it worked. On entry to the cheap and cheerful pub venue, audience members had to accuse their companions with a ‘crime’ of their choosing. We then handed our accusations back to the court clerk (played by acclaimed comedian Tim FitzHigham (picture below)). He had the chance to take a look over the accusations, pick out his favourites, and put these audience members on trial.
And what’s a trial without lawyers? Dressed in fancy dress wigs and robes throughout the show were Deborah Frances-White, Ed Coleman and Thom Tuck, playing the prosecutor, defence counsel and judge respectively.
My friend was nominated as the court artist, and the rest of the audience made up the jury, who had to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence at the end of the fictitious trial.
What became clear straight away was that the subject matter of the trials wasn’t criminal at all.
One audience member, for example, was accused of murdering shoes and wearing the corpse of the shoes he’d murdered. This turned from a fairly dubious accusation — the defendant just had a couple of small holes in the side of his shoes — to a hatchet job courtesy of his accuser (his girlfriend), who seemed very embarrassed when she had to give evidence. The audience agreed his scruffy shoes weren’t all that bad, and he was acquitted.
Another trial concerned a best man’s speech, one that had apparently offended the accuser’s family. To me, this was slightly better. After a lengthy testimony exploring the specific expletives used and the family members offended — plus a shaky defence of along the lines that “swearing is just what the defendant does” — he was overwhelmingly found not guilty.
At the end, it was patriarchy’s turn to be put on trial. In fact, it was the clerk representing the concept using the pseudonym Patrick Arkey. Embedded below is a short clip of the prosecution’s case.
Turning to my friend when we left the venue, we both agreed that the show would appeal to lawyers. The set-up, though silly, is reasonably true to criminal law process. It pokes fun at the adversarial system and exposes the funny side of what is often a humourless area of law.
And complimenting this unique set-up were the comedians. All four of them are well-respected in the industry, and were very likeable, confident and funny throughout. Highlights from them include defence counsel quipping to his client “let’s get you off on a technicality!”, and a number of interjections from the clerk about by-laws.
It was their input that led the show and kept it flowing, but the real risk lies with the audience. The level of entertainment hinged on their participation and — given that the show’s format wasn’t really made clear until we were in the thick of it — a few of us came across a little embarrassed and uncomfortable when called upon by the comedians.
If you’re going to go to the show, commit to it. If the thought of being grilled by four experienced comedians in cheap wigs fills you with dread, then it’s probably not one for you.