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Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Former mayor Daniel Abbott in lead role in Water Lane Theatre Company’s production of Jeffrey Archer’s courtroom drama at South Mill Arts in Bishop’s Stortford





A former mayor of Bishop’s Stortford will appear in “court” later this week charged with “murder” – but he’ll be walking free in the hope of having enhanced his reputation.

For Daniel Abbott is playing the lead role in award-winning amateur drama group Water Lane Theatre Company’s production of Jeffrey Archer’s highly-charged courtroom drama Beyond Reasonable Doubt at South Mill Arts from Thursday to Saturday (March 7-9).

Set in the 1980s, the plot follows the trial of Sir David Metcalf, a famous High Court lawyer accused of killing his wife. The audience is taken through the court proceedings, then back in time to the night in question and then to a stunning denouement when all questions are finally answered. Audience members become the jury and can draw their own conclusions on whether Sir David is guilty or innocent.

Under arrest: Daniel Abbott in Water Lane's Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Under arrest: Daniel Abbott in Water Lane's Beyond Reasonable Doubt

For anyone who might blur reality with fiction, Daniel stressed that he has never appeared in court, as a defendant, witness or even a juror – but that’s not to say he hasn’t done “community service”.

In 2015, the 43-year-old father of one served as mayor of Bishop’s Stortford, midway through an eight-year spell of two terms as a Conservative member of the town council and of East Herts District Council.

Daniel is no stranger to performing on stage, but this is the first time he will be doing so without breaking into song. He is an established member of Bishop’s Stortford Musical Theatre Company (BSMTC), and in his last appearance with them he played Prime Minister Harold Wilson in Made in Dagenham.

Daniel Abbott as Prime Minister Harold Wilson, left, in BSMTC’s Made in Dagenham. Picture: Lynn Graseman
Daniel Abbott as Prime Minister Harold Wilson, left, in BSMTC’s Made in Dagenham. Picture: Lynn Graseman

“I’ve wanted to do a straight play for many years, to build on my skills as an actor and build on a character part without performing a song, which I’ve done with BSMTC,” Daniel told the Indie. “Water Lane are a fantastic group of performers. I’ve seen many of their plays and thought I’d love to act beside them.

“I was originally approached by the director, Richard [Pink], asking if I’d like to be a part of Beyond Reasonable Doubt. I’ve performed alongside a few members of Water Lane in other groups and they’re all so talented and very friendly and welcoming.”

Daniel has never seen the play and knew nothing about the story, so had no specific role in mind when he turned up for auditions in December.

“I knew I had the time to approach any of the roles in this play with full commitment. I was unsure which part I would have liked, but knew I wanted to try for a larger part as I wanted to test myself.

Tall order: Daniel Abbott is playing his first leading role in a drama in Water Lane’s Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Tall order: Daniel Abbott is playing his first leading role in a drama in Water Lane’s Beyond Reasonable Doubt

“Sir David Metcalf is a distinguished QC [who] believes he is the best in the game. He’s confident and has a natural ability in his role as a QC. At home he loves to be the centre of attention and appears to love his wife dearly.”

Over the last three months Daniel, who lives in Wheatcroft on Thorley Park, has had to find increasingly more time to learning his numerous lines.

He works as an employment advisor for charity Employ Ability, supporting adults with mental health conditions back into work. Outside the office, he enjoys theatre, karaoke, films, travelling and walking, but most of his free time is spent with his eight-year-old son Oliver, who goes to Richard Whittington Primary School – “creating new memories for us both,” as dad puts it.

Hatching a plot? Daniel Abbott in Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Hatching a plot? Daniel Abbott in Beyond Reasonable Doubt

As production week has neared, Daniel has absorbed Sir David into his daily routine.

“Every day I spend time reading through the script, such as before bed,” he said. “As we got closer to show week I’ve been meeting up with other cast members to go through the script, either at our own homes or online through video calls. Everyone in the cast has dedicated their time to rehearsals, giving full commitment to their roles.

Behind bars: Daniel Abbott plays Sir David Metcalf, a QC accused of murdering his wife
Behind bars: Daniel Abbott plays Sir David Metcalf, a QC accused of murdering his wife

“My favourite scenes are when John Bell [who plays prosecutor Anthony Blair-Booth] is grilling my character in court.”

When asked why people should buy tickets to watch Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Daniel was in no doubt: “Because it’s high-quality drama which is involving, engaging and right on your doorstep.”

Director Richard Pink would endorse that. “When I first read it I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns as well as the thoroughly believable dialogue. The conclusion is truly superb.”

Beyond Reasonable Doubt is sponsored by Tees, the Stortford-based law and wealth management firm, which has also acted as unofficial advisors on court procedure and regalia.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt will be at South Mill Arts in March
Beyond Reasonable Doubt will be at South Mill Arts in March

*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 atwww.southmillarts.co.ukor call 01279 710200.



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