A Sacred Thing is a new play by Laurence Power and explores themes of race, class and how justice is affected by the personal opinions of the individuals making decisions. Directed by Lauren Fahy, assisted by Rachel Brierley, it follows the deliberations of an all-white, all-male jury in a southern American state in 1946.
Following an incident in a radio store, a local black youth was arrested and imprisoned. Whilst incarcerated, the local sheriff has beaten the handcuffed youth to death with a tyre spanner. Whether or not the sheriff is guilty of manslaughter is the core theme of the play.
When it becomes clear that some members of the jury have connections with the Ku Klux Klan and are basing their judgment on race rather than the facts, tensions rise and arguments about morality, loyalty and justice begin in earnest, and it doesn’t look like there will ever be a way for them to end peacefully.
The play opens with a film projection depicting the events relating to the case. This ensures that the audience are fully aware of the circumstances and prevents the need for detailed exploration and explanation as part of the dialogue in the jury room.
The jury room itself was portrayed very well. Making full use of the Casa’s small stage, the cast managed to create a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere where you could actually feel the heat and walls of the room pressing in around you. This is a victory for both cast and crew which created a show which was captivating in the extreme.
The southern accents are very well maintained by the cast overall and the use of language and tone to illustrate class and profession is an intelligent and enriching touch.
Each of the twelve characters are fully developed and all of the actors manage to maintain character during the parts of the play when they are not speaking. Every actor is on stage for the duration of the play and this is particularly difficult to do during a long performance. Welles (Josh Ennis) had particularly strong presence during relaxed moments of his performance. His reactions to other characters’ statements are consistent and natural.
Douglas (Mikey Latham) gives out a quiet anger which is extremely disconcerting and disturbing in its realism. The clash between him and Tate (Tom Coleman) is tangible and the opposing views of these two characters created brilliant tension.
Adding to the tension is Daniels (Conor Burns) who is frankly terrifying. Burns’ ability to remain consistently threatening with very little dialogue is brilliant and his character’s integral role in the climax of the play is magnificently performed. Burns plays particularly well against Powell (Gareth Crawshaw), whose emotional portrayal of a bereaved father is heartbreakingly powerful.
A Sacred Thing is a wonderful play which is painfully relevant to today’s world. Featuring unnervingly familiar discourse, the show is reminiscent of 12 Angry Men, sharing a lot of the same themes and being in an identical setting with a similar premise. Like that iconic film, A Sacred Thing will leave you enraptured, and questioning everything you think you know about society and the integrity of justice.
A Sacred Thing is being performed at the Dundrum Mill Theatre, Dublin on 30th and 31st August 2019 and the Gatehouse Theatre, London on 2nd and 3rd September 2019. Tickets are available here http://secretkeyproductions.co.uk/index.html
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 17th August 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★★