Review

Review: My experience being a jury member at a comedy criminal trial

By on
9

Katie King reviews ‘This Is Your Trial’, the acclaimed improv show

This Is Your Trial
This Is Your Trial

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.

comedy1

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.

comedy4

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.

comedy3

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.

comedy2

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.

This Is Your Trial

A video posted by Legal Cheek (@legalcheek) on

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.

9 Comments

Anonymous

I’ve never been to an improv show but the description here makes me shudder.

(12)(0)

Dave

You should come to one! These are brilliant improvisers. But don’t be put off by the suggestion you need to participate. You actually don’t. Only 3 audience members go on trial. (And only if they want to!)

(3)(0)

Anonymous

So, Katie’s article wasn’t accurate!? I refuse to believe that.

(1)(0)

Phil McPipe

Cue academic rantings about the inaccuracy of the outfits, procedure etc.

It must have been good if Thom Thuck was in it! Lol!

(4)(0)

Dave

Yes, we use a gavel. Yes we know this is something never used in UK courts, but for entertainment purposes, audiences expect it! (too much US TV) We also allow objections and other such nuances that help make drama and theatre. But please be assured, we know some elements are not authentic, but these are the compromises required to make it fun! Otherwise, there is definitely an attempt to bring authenticity to the process and as much legal lingo as the comedians remember from my direction. (the wigs are nylon, one day I hope to have funds to buy the proper deal. But rarely it seems any QCs are putting them up for sale. Please donate if you have those spare. My comedians do complain about headsweat!!)

(0)(0)

@maggotlaw

Sounds ideal for an office outing – and a meta-play about how it all goes embarrassingly off cue.

(1)(2)

Dave

Hi @maggotlaw, we actually do a lot of private shows too for offices which are the best fun when everyone knows each other more. See here for details of one we did for KrollOntrack. http://www.edisclosureblog.co.uk/this-is-not-just-any-christmas-party-this-is-a-kroll-ontrack-christmas-party/

(2)(1)

Bumblebee

I don’t believe it. A KK article without nasty, bullying insults in the comments section. My compound eyes must be deceiving me.

(9)(4)

Anonymous

Little Thommy Thucker things for hith thupper…

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.