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The Trials: Is it justice or revenge?

The Trials, written by Dawn King is a young new play that emerged for the first time in the London UK, August 2022 when Director Jess Simmons was in the crowd of the audience of the theatre to watch The Trials. The Trials is set in a climate emergency 18-20 years into the future where the older generations, known as the ‘dinosours’, are up for trial for their questionable life choices whether it be their work or personal life, each of their choices whether to eat meat, drive a car or the choice of their career. All three defendants are up for trial for ignoring the climate crisis, and the dwindling years that they have left on the planet. The twelve selected Jurors, aged 16 and above, hold the fate of the defendants lives in their hands. The younger generation are held accountable for making a difference for climate change and now the responsibility of the adults generations actions that has lead to the climate crisis. ‘The Dinos are passing the situation down to us’.

Performed in Alec Clegg theatre on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of February 2023. In the thrust layout, you walk into the darkness with the sound enveloping within the oranges, reds and white lights moving slowly around the room with intensity increasing to the rhythm of the sounds of the rumbling wind and radio sound waves. Political art work and banners holding slogans of the climate crisis in bold primary colours and in different languages. ‘System Change NOT Climate Change’ banner hung above the audience. Sound Technician, Millie Fisher, and Designer, Megan Murphy, collaboratively together created an unsettling nervousness of the close ending of the world.

Photography credits to Abby Swain.

Producer, Jackie Slipper, and Assistant Producer, Zoe Davis aligned their work in production to the Theatre Green Book, brilliantly showing how you can source costumes, set and props all second hand with 80% of them all together to be given a new life after. The costumes blended in naturally with the Jurors young ages, with Adnan, played by Vaibhav Sharma and Kako, played by Grace Middleditch both had inhalers referencing to the the contaminated air of the climate outside.

Director Jess Simmons was supported by AD Caitlin Lister, who created the young feel and aesthetic to the twelve young strangers in the room who are all connected by one thing; their dooming future caused by their own family. Although at times the characterization lacked and there was a struggle to deeply connect with all characters, it was truly the meaning and purpose behind the play which felt like the driving force of a strong protagonist. The twelve jurors and defendants were simply moving chess pieces in communicating the climate crisis message.

So, how do the defendants get judged? Economic Threshold & Carbon Emissions. Pretty simple? The defendants are judged on how much income they had, and what they did with it. Most importantly who they got the income from.

Then darkness. Spotlight. And plea.

Defendant One, multi-roled by Salman Husain, had a family whom they spoiled with ski holidays and an education. The frustration and anger was truly communicated, ‘‘what can I do?!?’. Defendant One, really pushed through the message that, they’re only one person. What can they do to actually make a change?

Darkness, bright warm light and it’s time for the debate. It is an overall majority vote that makes the decision if the Defendant gets sent to be euthanized. Let the debate begin with small talk and discussion to who will be the primary Juror? The nervousness and curiosity builds for the jurors. Ren, played by Roise Childs, has a motherly soft presence within the crowd of teenagers. Milo, (Samuel Bolles), is more of a devils advocate for these defendants through-out The Trial. A voice that pleads for the defendant's innocence that is shouted down by the loud, obnoxious and anger driven emotions of Gabi, (Lucy Hart), and Noah, (Arthur Bell), towards the damage that the ‘Dinos’ have done to their planet. But, most importantly, their future. This is brilliantly portrayed in a moment where Tamzin, played by Maisy Todd, innocently opens the window due to the searing heat of the room. The windows pushed further open from a gust of polluting smoke that swarms the room, leading for the Jurors to cough and in need for their inhalers.

Snow? ‘I wish I could see snow’ - Will young Zoe, played by Saranya Anandraj, ever experience snow? The small delicate icy flakes that gently bubble down from the balcony whilst Tamzin, played by Maisy Todd, dives into the role of a story teller for young Zoe, and for us the audience, with the cold blue lighting feeding into this story. Noah screaming how the defendant burned their planet to have fun, the bubbles settle and the reality of the decision sets in. Red darkness overhauls the stage, with a final deep bleep sound to mark the defendants fate. Guilty.

The set design changes before the defendants plea. An abstract movement of the table and chairs move around the stage to be scattered around, and moved on its side. The pop techno music and lighting bolts of flashing orange and red fill the stage.

Then darkness. Spotlight. And plea.

Defendant Two, multi-roled by Vaibhav Sharma, who has mitigating factors. They have no car, no kids and is a starving writer. They plea for the Jurors to ask how do you expect someone to escape from an avalanche that is already falling? The calmness in their voice melts out the guilt of their actions, and understanding that the capitalist society has captured them in a loop that they just couldn't escape. They want more time, “please”, they promise the want to be part of the solution. Darkness, light comes up in the room, Gabi, (Lucy Hart), does not sympathize with the writer. Believing instead that story-telling is just lying. The tension rises, as opinions and thoughts fly across the room, Gabi calls Amelia, (Ella Buckley), a ‘Dino’ for her weakness of guilt her character feels for making a life or death decision. Whilst Chris, played by Evie Yates, flirts with Noah (Arthur Bell), then charms Chris into believing that his decision is the right one. Always the right one. A young love naivety that plays into the responsibility of the defendants life. Kako, played by Grace Middleditch, openly admits to her privileged upbringing with her father taking the family to ‘chase the sun’. Young Zoe, innocently asking what it is like to fly in an airplane. Tamzin, takes over her role of Zoe’s storyteller with the sounds and lighting softly merging into Tamzin’s dialogue. An imagination of dreams that flows beautifully to capture a slight feeling for Zoe’s character. Disturbedd by the reality that a decision needs to be made, can you really blame one person? The characters stand lined around the stage, eyes closed. Hands go up and down. Verdict is in. Red darkness with a final deep bleep sound to mark the defendants fate. Guilty.

The sound of the Delta aircraft sound illuminates off the orange strobe lights that move around the stage whilst the character shape shifts the set around.

Lunch Break. Would you eat meat? The chit chatter of bacon and diary filled ice cream floats around the room with Marek, played by Salman Husain, meditating with the stressed characters in the corner of the stage. A fight breaks out between Noah and Milo fills the room with chaos.Is it justice or revenge? Is killing people off the right thing to do? Noah believes so, and therefore Milo should as well, however, Milo’s strength to fight for life cannot be broken. The pop techno music and lighting bolts of flashing orange and red fill the stage.

Then darkness. Spotlight. And plea.

Defendant Three, multiroled by Ella Buckley. A mother who pours out her guilt and shame of working for an oil corporation. Exposing the greenwashing that the company she worked for continually did to hide away from the truth and claim to be changing their ways, but Defendant Three’s daughter does not speak to her anymore, the heartbreak of your own child wanting to forget who you are, leading Defendant three to volunteer to be euthanized. A morbid reality that captures the audience. There’s rising tension and emotions, nearly overriding facts. An undecided verdict, again, a sweet relationship forms between Xander an aspiring poet, (Ed Gravestock), and Ren, (Roise Childs), that exposes how Ren’s parents are indeed not doctors as once thought. Defendant Three is their mother. Who will decide towards the death of Ren’s mother? An undecided battle between the jurors. Vulnerability seeps out of Noah, who votes not guilty. Ren’s tears glimmer in her eyes, as she realizes that she has to make the decision because Amelia’s sickness to make such a decision holds her locked in no mans land. The verdict is in. Red darkness with a final deep bleep sound to mark the defendants fate. Guilty.

Leaving the audience with the painful reality that Ren, Defendant Three’s daughter, has convicted her Guilty. Knowing the consequences. With the last words from the mother, defendant three, I love you Ren. Darkness captures Ren’s last words to her mother, I love you mum.

This play was perfectly segmented together with each scene flowing perfectly into one another, from the spectacular technical sound and lighting design by Millie Fisher and Megan Murphy, who capture the intensity and imagination of story-telling from the characters in each scene. ‘The Trials’ was a heart aching performance of what our future could look like that was carefully sculpted together by Jess Simmons and her talented production team, selected by Theatre Group LUU society.

This performance took place on the 24th of February 2023. You can see more of Theatre Group’s performances here.

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