Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Court in the Act ****


Court in the Act 
(The Case of the Crown v Someone in the Audience), by Rod Quantock
 Old Melbourne Gaol, until Feb 11, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:****

You wouldn’t want to be a real defendant in the Kangaroo Court that is Rod Quantock’s Court in the Act: The Case of the Crown v Someone in the Audience. During this thoroughly absurd court case, a member of the audience is accused, tried and sentenced for a trumped up charge invented by other audience members.

You could get off scot free for causing the deaths of thousands, or be sentenced to the gallows at the Old Melbourne Gaol next door for stealing a cake.

The venue of Quantock’s hilarious, mock court proceedings is the illustrious and woody Old Magistrates’ Court. After an informative tour of the frighteningly cramped, concrete bunker that is the Old City Watch House, the audience chooses the crimes to be tried then adjourns to the courtroom where the fun begins in earnest. In the small, opening night crowd, everyone plays a role: defendant, defence barrister, judge, witness, juror, court reporter, clerk of courts or court artist.

The entire evening is improvised. However, the inimitable Mr. Quantock S.C. (Senior Counsel), as Crown Prosecutor, steers the proceedings by leading the witnesses, manufacturing evidence and building a narrative and back-story that compete favourably with the wittiest television courtroom dramas. It beats Rake on the ABC.

Quantock relies on his wits and compelling personality, acunningly devised courtroom structure and the willingness of participants to leap headlong into this playful improvisation. Participants gleefully improvise characters, dialogue, questions, answers and actions with intelligence and quick thinking. Who needs actors?

By the end, we have a thorough knowledge of the crime and its alleged perpetrator. The cheeky, blasé Colin, accused of stealing a secret recipe for heavenly banana bread, is sentenced to 23 days hard labour. Mick, a dodgy, country accountant, is found not guilty of a scurrilous act of sabotage that destroyed evidence of his embezzlement.

Finally, the court reporter reads his pithy, Herald-Sun headlines and the artist reveals strikingly accurate portraits. And it will all be different tomorrow night.

By Kate Herbert

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