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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




King's Head Theatre presents


Someone to Blame


Written by Tess Berry-Hart


Directed by David Mercatali


Designed by Gregor Donnelly

King's Head Theatre


6 March – 31 March 2012



Someone to Blame is a verbatim play which tells the story of Sam Hallam (Robin Crouch), who in 2004, at the age of 17, was tried and convicted for the murder of Essayas Khan during a London street fight which he says he had purposely avoided. The script is woven from court and police records, news reports and recently conducted interviews. Writer Tess Berry-Hart has merged these verbal and written sources seamlessly to produce a story which serves to simultaneously inform, shock and sadden a deeply absorbed audience. The timing of the production is particularly pertinent as an appeal date has been set for May of this year following an investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

A layered stage arrangement and dark, graffitied breeze blocks are teamed with two plastic crates to form the versatile set. The action flits effortlessly between campaigner Paul May (Keith Hill) at his busy desk relaying the story, and the highly skilled ensemble in a variety of spaces: the street, police station, court room, Sam Hallam's home and his prison cell. All available areas including the aisles and stage doors are utilised, giving the action a sense of urgency and chaos. The opening scene depicts a violent murder which lasts only moments and the scenes which follow illustrate the incredible confusion which marred the subsequent murder investigation, leading to Sam's incarceration. The trial itself is particularly well rendered with Sam seated in the spotlight assailed by an array of evidence, questions and formalities.

Robin Crouch makes an impression in the lead as a perplexed and naïve Sam Hallam. Debra Baker is similarly impressive as his nervously affable mother who confides in the audience as though they were old friends. Keith Hill as Paul May, the campaigner at the centre of the fight for an appeal, is undoubtedly a wonderful narrator in voice and character but some lost, confused lines affected the flow of an otherwise coherent, intense production. The range displayed by the ensemble is nothing short of fascinating, Clare Cameron is evenly convincing both as the apathetic key witness and Sam's obstinate lawyer.

Anger and confusion prevail as the youths involved all grapple for their piece of the action and a chance to tell their story. Bradley Taylor as Sam's best friend embodies the frustration and disbelief of those close to him, delivering an emphatic performance and remaining angered and sceptical right to the close. Costumes are non-intrusive and sensibly chosen, so as not to detract from the importance of the events and allow for swift shifts in character. They consist of tracksuits for the youths, suits for detectives and authentic court dress for representatives of the law.

Someone to Blame is an impressive culmination of the tireless campaign to free Sam Hallam. Some of his relatives seated in the audience wept openly at the recollections forced upon them by the harrowingly detailed illustration of injustice. Verbatim theatre can overwhelm in any context, the approaching appeal for justice which is much celebrated toward the end of the play makes this story theatrical dynamite. The drama extends far beyond the King's Head and seeps into the consciousness of the attendees, most of whom will avidly anticipate the actual closing scene this May.


Box Office: 0207 478 0160

Tickets: £10 - £25

Kings Head Theatre

 115 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN



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