It’s not often you get to be at the opening night, on the very first tour date, of a new production, of a much loved bestselling story. THE VERDICT opened its 17 week run at the New Theatre in Cardiff last night and it did feel special to be part of the ‘first night club‘.

It would be churlish to think there wouldn’t be nerves backstage, this being the first night, but with an impressive cast and superbly staged set, you’d be hard pushed to spot a butterfly in sight.

The Verdict first appeared as a novel by Barry Reed in 1980 and instantly topped the bestseller lists. It then went on to become an Oscar nominated film starring Paul Newman and James Mason.

It’s actually the original source material the play is grounded in, and for me, is all the better for it. At the heart of the story is the courtroom drama, and being in the room when it happens (to quote a well known musical) raises the tension, and some well timed gasps from the audience at appropriate moments during the performance.

In fact, here’s what the audience thought of last night’s opening……


Frank Galvin is an alcoholic lawyer in Boston in 1980, desperate for money to pay his bills. He has a chance to redeem himself when he’s given a medical malpractice case that no one thinks he can win. A young woman has been left in a vegetative state following an incident during childbirth. Frank is fighting for justice for the woman, turning down an out-of-court settlement and taking the case to trial.

JASON MERRELLS is a very familiar actor millions of us have seen over the years. Agatha Raisin, Emmerdale, Casualty, Waterloo Road and more recently, Finding Alice. As Frank Galvin he impressively dominates the stage for pretty much the entire two and a half hours it’s on.

Yes, this is a long production, but in a show filled with more twists and turns than a drive through town on matchday, and a second half courtroom performance that will leave you breathless. It really is a compelling watch.

We spend some of the first half of the show in Frank’s poky little office. It’s here we meet the the alleged victims Mother, Mrs McDaid (SARAH SHELTON) and the Bishop Brophy (RICHARD WALSH) who is trying to keep the church and medical team protected, at any cost.

Various colleagues come and go too, including Frank’s mentor Moe Katz, with VINCENT PIRILLO putting in a fine performance. But the focus is always on the elements of the case and what drives Frank to turn down the out of court settlement – much to the horror of Mrs McDaid.

You can take a look at our interview with Jason HERE.

I am going to be careful from here on in as it will be way too easy to drop in a spoiler, or even hint at where the story takes you. Half the fun was chatting during the interval about who, what, or could that person be….. You get the idea.

If the first half is our scene-setter, the second is very much a scene-stealer. Almost the entire second act is spent in the Boston Courtroom, meticulously recreated by designer, and man of many talents MICHAEL LUNNEY. He’s also in the production (twice) and directs this fine piece of work. I’ve never been in a courtroom in the States but from what I saw on stage last night, I think I just paid my first visit. The details is superb.

Because you’re in the courtroom with the players it does come with the tension and angst you’d expect, however, don’t for a second think it’s all serious. The humour is subtle and gentle and for us in the audience, a much needed bit of light relief from a very strained environment.

There’s a large company of players in this show, with a first class cast on stage with Jason, each of them delivering a spot-on performance and some terrific American accents too.

There’s Richard Walsh (London’s Burning), Reanne Farley (River City), Vincent PirilloNigel BarberOkon JonesMichael LunneySarah SheltonJason WilsonTeresa JenningsHolly Jackson WaltersJames MorleyBruce ChattanAnna Arthur and Dave Speck.

The Verdict Cast

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m trying not to give anything away here. The joy of a production like this is not knowing how or where the story is going to take you. Even if you’ve read the book or watched the movie, which I have done, you still feel completely invested in the characters, particularly Frank who is clearly drinking in the last chance saloon (if you pardon the analogy).

The Verdict will grab your attention from about five minutes before the show begins. Jason is on stage ‘pottering’ in his office as the audience slowly realise he’s there and come to order. When the show begins, you’ll be invested in the story and characters from the first minutes.

You never know where the story is going to take you and with the tension building in the courtroom, you really don’t know how it’s going to play out. I’ve read the book and watched the film and I was still on the edge of my seat waiting for The Verdict.

This tour takes the company all across the UK but South Wales is their home for the first week of this run. I would urge you to pay them a visit. It’s a thoroughly engaging story, played out by a company of immensely talented actors, and a great way to spend a few hours in the theatre.

THE VERDICT is at the New Theatre in Cardiff through to Saturday 28th. Performances are at 7:30pm each evening with a 2:30pm matinee on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets start at £17 through to £35, with a variety of concessions and prices in between. For more details, and to book yours, go HERE.