In a brilliant new disruptive production, EUTC examines the hard-hitting topic of sexual assault. 20 Minutes of Action by Pollyanna Esse presents the reality of one of the most prolific American court cases dealing with sexual assault. Although specific details have been changed for legal reasons, every single line of dialogue remains as it was spoken during the real case. The entirely verbatim performance leads the audience through the courtroom details, combining statements from different stages of the trial and interviews to piece together a picture boldly constructed from the perspectives of both the victim and the perpetrator.
Despite its title, 20 Minutes of Action is a play of emotions. The ‘action’ has already taken place; now it is time for consequences. The tense atmosphere is a crucial element of the production that establishes the play’s disruptive tone, paired with a vibrancy of emotions product of extraordinary acting.
Aimee Vincent’s performance as the victim, the central character of the play, is acted to a particularly professional standard. Tears are shed where appropriate but Vincent’s speechless suffering is of particular note, alongside well delivered monologues that starkly channel the character’s pain.
Likewise, the performance of the perpetrator by Benji Sumrie is also excellent, with the play provocatively exploring his side of the case. Whilst the production concentrates on the victim, it also tries to get inside the head of the offender. The success of this role stems from the fact that whilst the perpetrator’s actions are unequivocally horrible, Sumrie’s performance of exhaustively attempting to analyse his emotions and feelings strike the audience with a question of whether he really understands why he is to blame. Of notable mention is the admirable performance of the perpetrator’s parents by Sophie Roadnight and Sam Kinch, whose struggle shows the far reaching and life changing impact of such crimes.
The simple scenography and minimalist soundtrack and lighting complement the production, focusing the audience’s attention to the play’s matter whilst representing the reality of the actual court case. Despite sections of dialogue being sporadically dispersed throughout the play, the segments are smoothly transitioned to draw full attention to the play’s message.
20 Minutes of Action leaves the audience feeling confused and disrupted. It is not a play in pursuit of a happy ending, but aims to make a step towards removing the taboo and prejudices surrounding sexual assaults cases. These sensitive objectives are marvellously achieved through smooth employment of verbatim dialogue, superbly delivered by emotionally honest acting. 20 Minutes of Action will be considered a notable addition to the Bedlam catalogue.
20 Minutes of Action
Image: Chris Nash