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Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Water Lane Theatre Company to stage Jeffrey Archer’s courtroom drama at South Mill Arts

Audiences will be more than just observers when Bishop’s Stortford drama group Water Lane Theatre Company performs a highly-charged courtroom drama at South Mill Arts in the spring.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt was the first of three stage plays written by Jeffrey Archer, the 83-year-old novelist, former Conservative MP and convicted criminal who sits in the House of Lords. It opened in 1987 and ran at the Queen's Theatre in London's West End for over a year.

The plot centres on Sir David Metcalfe, a famous High Court lawyer accused of killing his wife. In the first act, Archer’s play takes the audience through the court proceedings, where Sir David defends himself against long-time rival Anthony Blair-Booth as prosecutor.

Various witnesses, some more reliable than others, are called to give evidence and the audience is treated as the jury, although they are not required to deliver a verdict – or any lines!

In the second half the action goes back in time to the night of Lady Metcalfe’s death. Then we are transported forward, after the verdict has been given, where the drama ends in a stunning denouement.

The play enables the audience to see every nuance and every clue to allow them to decide whether Sir David is guilty as charged or innocent as he protests.

It is a gripping, tense drama, but not without splashes of humour throughout which periodically break the tension.

Director Richard Pink, who cast the play only last week, said: “I really was spoilt for choice by the quality of people who came to the auditions. We have a lot of talented people and some real depth in the group, so I was able to get exactly the kind of people I wanted for each of the roles, people who the audience will find believable and characters that they can empathise with.”

Daniel Abbott, who most recently played former Prime Minister Harold Wilson in Bishop’s Stortford Musical Theatre Company’s November production Made in Dagenham, plays Sir David Metcalfe in his Water Lane debut while regular Sally Fenton is his wife, Lady Metcalfe. John Bell plays Anthony Blair-Booth and Andy Roberts is the judge, Mr Justice Treadwell.

The rest of the cast is: Court Usher – Amy Prosser, Clerk of the Court – SJ Pyne, Det Chief Insp Travers – John Quick, Prison Officer – Greg Hill, Eileen Rogers – Corrina Graham-Hodson, Dr Jane Weedon – Nancy Jones, Lionel Hamilton – Granville Rush, Mr Cole – Adam Miles, Robert Pierson – Tom Livesey, Stenographer – Amanda Green.

Performances run from Thursday to Saturday, March 7-9, at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 3pm. Tickets for the evening shows are £18 (concessions £16) and £16 for the matinee. Book direct via the South Mill Arts box office at www.southmillarts.co.uk or call 01279 710200. You can find more information about Water Lane on its website www.waterlanetheatrecompany.co.uk.

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