First Shakespeare of 2012: The Tempest at the White Bear
Alan Rickman to tread West End boards again?

Well executed Execution of Justice @swkplay

ExecutionofJusticewebSouthwark Playhouse is my adopted theatre for 2012, my first adopted theatre in fact. What it means is that I will see everything, non-musical, they put on in the main house. 

I've always liked the Playhouse's quirky, atmospheric space under the railway arches at London Bridge - a space they put to very good and imaginative use. Not everything I've seen there has been brilliant but enough has been really enjoyable so that I don't have any fears my regular visits will be an endurance.

Aside from the fact that it is also very easy for me to get to Southwark and they have a great cut price ticketing sytem, this will be the last year the theatre is in its current space as London Bridge is due to be redeveloped. So those are the reasons for my choice (and I'm sticking to them).

And the year of adoption has started off in cracking form with the verbatim play Execution of Justice by Emily Mann. With a cast of 20, the play recounts the San Francisco trial of Dan White who shot dead Harvey Milk the first openly gay elected politician and his colleague George Moscone in 1978.

The script comes straight from court transcripts, interviews, reportage and the man on the street, flicking between the trial, events leading up to it and the reaction from the people of San Francisco.

Present pretty much throughout is Dan White (Peter Duguid-McQuillan) who sits impassive to what is going on around him until it is time to recount his story. And in one relatively brief scene, when he hands himself over to his former police colleagues after the murders in a state of extreme emotional agitation Duguid-McQuillan gives the stand out performance.

That scene and Aidan Downing’s Sister Boom Boom, although this might be more to do with the rather revealing drag Queen outfit which includes red PVC hot pants.

Trials can be quite dull but this isn’t because the pace is varied throughout. Formal court scenes are interwoven with re-enactments of pieces of evidence, character witnesses and commentary from people who knew the victims and those that just lived in San Francisco at the time.

However, what really gives Execution of Justice its edge is that in today's society it just seems inconceivable and therefore utterly intriguing how such a brutal and homophobic crime could result in such a light punishment. 

My only slight quibble is there are a couple of scenes where different voices are heard virtually simultaneously and from different parts of the stage which makes it difficult to follow either thread. But it is only a slight quibble in what is an engaging, imaginative and well acted piece.

I'm going to give Execution of Justice four and a half stars. It runs at the Southwark Playhouse until Feb 4, catch it while you can.


Despite the cast of many this was quite tricky but I've found a connection. Kate Harper, who plays three different roles, was in the Children's Hour which starred Keira Knightly was in Atonement with Romola Garai who has, of course, worked with Mr W in the first and second series of The Hour (the latter is currently filming).