The world stage premiere of The Verdict came to The Alhambra where Leo Owen caught the show

Originally a best-selling thriller written by Barry Reed, The Verdict was quickly adapted for the screen several years after it first publication. Hugely successful at the time, it received five Academy Award nominations and now forty years on, Middle Ground Theatre Company are bringing Reed’s courtroom drama to the stage.

Gambling on a newcomer adapting from a screenplay for the first time, Middle Ground have certainly got lucky with Margaret May Hobbs. She does Reed’s source material justice, ably bringing to life this medical malpractice suit.

Central to the story is Frank Galvin (Jason Merrells), a struggling American-Irish Attorney of Law who takes on a case against a hospital and the Catholic church. Once reputably known as a lawyer with principles, Reed writes what he knows, basing The Verdict’s premise in his own previous area of expertise.

A young woman left in a “persistent vegetative state” after the birth of her third child is unable to fight for justice, therefore her mother hires Galvin to champion Deborah Ann’s case, hoping to find answers and secure compensation enough to raise her destitute grandchildren. Galvin finds himself facing a case that could resuscitate his floundering career or lead to his downfall as he’s forced to take on the church who happen to fund the very hospital Deborah Ann chose for her care. After Galvin visits Deborah Ann, he vows to discover the truth, rejecting a generous pay-out settlement he views as “blood money” and a flattering job offer. The path he finds himself on is fraught with unexpected obstacles, keeping audiences guessing. Known for their back-catalogue of successful dramas and professing to offer lavish sets, great costumes and quality acting, Middle Ground certainly deliver with impressive design and a large ensemble of thoroughly convincing actors. Co-founder of the company and responsible for both directing and aesthetics on this production, Michael Lunney also stars as Eugene Meehan. The landlord of Galvin’s local pub and lifelong friend, Eugene provides his tragic backstory, making both characters more rounded and likable too.

Lunney’s sets are undoubtedly ambitious with remarkable attention to detail, opening on a split stage, including Meehan’s bar on the right, complete with Irish and US flags, a snowy park backdrop sandwiched by Galvin’s office on the other side. Merrells paints a clear picture of Galvin before the play even officially begins, getting suited in the office segment of the stage with alcoholic beverages readily available to slug. Accompanying this is the sound of traffic interspersed with sound bites of hospital emergency rooms. It is the second act, however, where Lunney really wows with a full wood panelled courtroom and the audience as jurors.

Compelling viewing? The verdict’s a resounding yes.

The Verdict showed at The Alhambra from June-27th - July 1st before continuing its UK tour: