Thursday, 8 February 2007

Court in the Act by Rod Quantock, Feb 8, 2007

Court in the Act by Rod Quantock 
Old Magistrates’ Court, Tues to Sat, Feb 8 to March 3, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 8

(See review of later production in Jan, 2011)
You cannot nod off in a darkened theatre during Rod Quantock’s Court in the Act. In fact, you might play a central role as Magistrate, Defence Counsel, Clerk of Courts, Defendant, witness or even court artist or reporter.

Court in the Act, playing at The Old Magistrates’ Court, is significantly more entertaining than a stand up or sketch comedy. It engages an audience in a completely different way. It compels us to think, act, make decisions and laugh out loud in a completely improvised court case, the nature of which is decided upon by the audience members.

The evening began with a tour of the Old City Watchhouse that housed Ned Kelly and Squizzy Taylor. The cellblocks are primitive, smacking of Alcatraz, each tiny cell having a solid metal door, one even boasting a padded interior.

Rod marshalled us into cells, under instructions to decide on a crime and an accused. The groups were inventive and excited and the potential crimes included performing a Mexican Wave and shooting out speed cameras. But the winner, by majority vote, was the assassination of John Howard by a CWA president at a barbecue in Euroa.

The accused, CWA president (Kaz McMahon), was nominated and we filed obediently and in anticipation into the courtroom. Rod took the role of Prosecution Counsel and a man wearing thongs, who had “a couple of years as a solicitor,” became the Judge. He was robed and wigged and looked like Santa. A bearded man became the Duty Defence Solicitor, Clerk, reporter, artist, jury and witnesses volunteered or were appointed.

The excitement rose as we sang the rousing and patriotic Under Southern Stars (lyrics by Amanda Vanstone, age six) to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory.

What followed was an hilarious and enthusiastic trial run by the audience – and Mr. Quantock, QC. The highlight was the rotund and laconic Constable Williams, whose testimony and manner was heroic and totally believable as a country copper. He was so popular he was promoted to Sergeant and then to assist the Judge on the Bench.

Evidence was presented of shotguns and rocket launchers, myopia and “unaustralian lamingtons”, hints of Mafia, lesbian lovers and Amanda Vanstone’s resentment. Finally, the jury found Ms. McMahon guilty but named a Public Holiday in her honour.

The night was vibrant and exhilarating – and tomorrow night will be completely different. Long live improvisation!

By Kate Herbert

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