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REVIEW: Edith (Premier) [Theatre, Play, Manchester]

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

The Lowry, Salford

3 February 2023

⭐⭐⭐


Edith (Premier) Edith Thompson trial, theatre play, The Lowry, Salford, Manchester. Crowded Room Theatre.

In December 1922, 28 year-old Edith Thompson went on trial for inciting her husband’s murder. Two months earlier, 20 year-old Frederick Bywaters had stabbed him as he walked home. The prosecution claimed the Edith told him to do it. The evidence? Her love letters.


This new play by Crowded Room recreates the trial 100 years later using the real court transcripts and asks if we would now judge Edith differently.


The judge in this case famously told the jury "You should not forget that you are in a court of justice trying a vulgar and common crime. You are not listening to a play from the stalls of a theatre."


It sounds like this sensational trial was begging to be made into a play! I applaud the writer (Harriet Madeley) and Director (Madelaine Moore) for doing so.


Edith (Premier) Edith Thompson trial, theatre play, The Lowry, Salford, Manchester. Photo: Lisa in the Theatre

Edith Thompson was one of the last women in the UK to be executed. Re-examining her case 100 years later in a theatre setting makes for a fascinating premise and I was excited to learn how it would play out.


The courtroom set is sparse but effective. The action started with much promise as the audience were asked to 'All Rise' for the judge. I thought we would therefore play a part, but no, there the interactivity ended. The audience were not asked to vote on Edith's guilt or innocence at the end, as I assumed we would be.


The play was 90 minutes straight through with no interval, although there were about six, 3 minute recesses. Originally I thought this was a clever idea too, to give everyone on and off stage a breather, but there were too many of them, and people cannot make it to the loo and back in 3 mins. Although many tried and it just ended up being disruptive.


Edith (Premier) Edith Thompson trial, theatre play, The Lowry, Salford, Manchester.  Photo: Lisa in the Theatre

I found the trial narrative difficult to follow. There were too many witnesses spun through too quickly. It wasn't clear to me who was who.


The key points from neither the prosecution nor defence landed for me, and I learnt more about the case and what may or may not have swayed the jury and the public opinion by reading about it afterwards.


It's a shame because I wanted to love this women-led production! Considering the guilty verdict was so controversial, the play lacked impact.


 

A note: My companion at this show said it’s one the best plays he’s ever seen and he would’ve given it 4 stars. And that’s great! Theatre is so subjective. Please don’t ever NOT go to see a show because of someone else’s review. Please go make up your own mind. I ignore reviews all the time! I have in the past been criticised for being too positive in my reviews (I’m not, I just have good taste and pick shows wisely) but here I was criticised for being too harsh. You can’t win!!


I will always be honest and give my honest opinion. There would be no point in running a theatre blog otherwise. But that’s not to say that my opinion is right or wrong. It’s just that - one person’s opinion. Please always judge for yourself.


[Review first posted on Instagram 9 February 2023]


 

⭐ REVIEW: Edith (Premier) Edith Thompson trial, theatre play, The Lowry, Salford, Manchester. ⭐


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Lisa in the Theatre, UK Theatre blog, website, UK reviewer.

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