Inadmissible Evidence – Theatre Review

Excuse me while I try to talk about theatre…

Inadmissible Evidence is a 1964 play written by John Osborne in which William Maitland plays an alcoholic, womanising solicitor who puts himself on a metaphorical trial for his failed life and sordid behaviour. Normally performed as a drama, for obvious reasons, but the Donmar production directed by Jamie Lloyd instead presents the play as more of a comedy; Douglas Hodge in the lead role brings a huge amount of energy and humour to the stage, contorting his face and throwing his body around.

In the first act Maitland is full of fun, tormenting his staff and avoiding calls from his wife and mistress. After the interval the tone shifts to one of despair as the people he has surrounded himself with start to desert him and Hodge is given the opportunity to show the full range of emotions. In true theatrical style there are monologues galore; Al Weaver performs a moving speech as a gay man refusing to deny his sexuality and Serena Evans plays a series of women suffering at the hands of their husbands. Born from such a vibrant beginning the dark and dramatic conclusion to the play is all the more effective.

Karen Gillan, surely a huge draw after her role in Doctor Who (I admit to nothing), plays a small but key role very well in her theatre debut. It was hard to keep my eyes off her even when she wasn’t directly on-stage, made possible by some clever staging allowing “off-stage” actors to be visible through frosted glass in the back office. The Donmar Warehouse certainly knows how to put together a good set. With such a small auditorium, the stage felt less like a solicitor’s office built in a theatre but more a theatre built around a solicitor’s office. The whole stage was wonderfully grimy and cluttered.

Daniel Ryan was solid as Maitland’s right hand man whose loyalty is slipping, as was Amy Morgan as the fun new secretary willing to put up with Maitland’s lecherous advances. The real star of course is Douglas Hodge, the poor man never leaves the stage and gives the role such energy and charm it’s a wonder he manages 8 shows a week.

If theatre, cinema and TV are good for anything it is to make you feel something, and Inadmissible Evidence built me up and knocked me down. Well worth the reasonable-for-theatre ticket price.

Inadmissible Evidence is playing at the Donmar Warehouse until 26th November 2011.