Jeffrey Archer is a best-selling novelist whose career as a Tory politician has been plagued by controversy with his 'alleged' womanising ways and 'alleged' deceptions. However, he is a colourful figure that keeps bouncing back. He is making his acting West End debut with this play, but this is not his first play to have a West End run. Archer's previous plays in the West End include "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" and "Exclusive".
This courtroom drama concerns Dr Sherwood (Jeffrey Archer) who is either a faithful husband or a wife killer. The ending of the play depends upon the decision of the audience who have an electronic gadget to deliver their verdict towards the end of the play.
The script is weak and has many holes, but then this is to be expected. After all, trying to make a courtroom drama entertaining, with the odd twist and a touch of tension, is not easy. You have to balance the credibility of the court case with the entertainment value. I believe Archer succeeds in getting the right balance leaving the audience with a difficult decision at the end of the play.
Jeffrey Archer's acting ability may leave a lot to be desired, but there is no faulting the others. Tony Britton as 'The Judge', Michael Feast as the prosecuting counsel, and Edward Petherbridge as the defence attorney make a great triple act, even if the insults exchanged would not happen in a real court, they certainly give the play a lot of humour!
The production ,and particularly Jeffrey Archer, have received poor reviews from the popular press….ROBERT GORE-LANGTON for THE DAILY EXPRESS says, "For my money, acting this awful ` when cross-examined, Archer talks like a balsa-wood plank that's been given a voice box ` deserves the gibbet." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, says, "Archer can't spot a cliche without rushing to embrace it like a long-lost chum, and his writing has all the lightness of the suet pudding they used to serve at my prep school." He goes on to say the length of Val May's "leaden" production is "downright sadistic". MICHAEL COVENEY for THE DAILY MAIL says, "Watching Jeffrey perform is like watching a talking clock trying vainly to speak. Even his very appearance on the stage in front of a paying audience is a total, not unamusing affront." SHERIDAN MORLEY for TELETEXT says, "The plot, given Archer's best-selling background, is curiously thin and just doesn't hold across three long acts." THE SUNDAY TIMES, was not as hard on the production saying, "Jeffrey Archer's new play is a cross between a decent, solid, plodding, reasuringly bland courtroom drama and a middlebrow game show."
The production may have received a bashing from the popular press, but I liked it. I don't think the drama is meant to be taken too seriously (and even if it was, you can't!) and I even thought that Archer's acting 'inability', added a certain ethereal charm.
(Show Photo by John Haynes)