The 1974 Granada Television Trial By Jury

The Learned JudgeEric Shilling
The PlaintiffNorma Burrowes
The DefendantJohn Brecknock
Counsel for the PlaintiffDenis Dowling
UsherHarold Blackburn
Foreman of the JuryLehmann Bedford

Ambrosian Opera Chorus
English Chamber Orchestra
Designer: Peter Phillips
Director: Peter Potter
Conductor: Charles Mackerras

Broadcast on Granada Television
24 December 1974

This performance was broadcast on Granada Television in Christmas Eve, 1974. The cast were all blue-chip English light opera performers, as was the conductor, Charles Mackerras. A correspondent who asked to remain anonymous sent in the following review:

This production of Trial by Jury, made by Granada TV as part of their Parade arts series, is an excellent rendering of the complete opera with superb singers (many of whom were appearing with Sadlers Wells at the time) and great musical direction from Sir Charles Mackerras.

For what must have been a fairly cheaply-made affair, the set of a Victorian courtroom is very impressive (although it does have that slightly-painted look one sees on stage sets). The production does not try to emulate the D'Oyly Carte productions of the time. Instead, it attempts to give a fresh and funny style to the opera that both traditionalists and non-traditionalists should enjoy (although strict traditionalists may not like the extended finale which gives the credits time to roll).

All the actors play their characters perfectly, with Norma Burrowes making a coquettish and highly desirable Angelina who enjoys flirting with everyone in sight. John Brecknock is an excellently caddish Edwin, flirting with the Bridesmaids an the ladies of the public, and smoking a cigar in court before the Judge relieves him of it and takes a few drags himself.

Denis Dowling as the Counsel is stuffy and authoritative, while Harold Blackburn (The Usher) has great fun plucking the Judge's love letter from the 1st Bridesmaid's cleavage before giving it to the Plaintiff.

As in most productions of Trial, it is the performance of the Judge that is most noticeable, and Eric Shilling gives a sparkling interpretation of the part, always fun but never over-played. From a little burst of ballet on his first (outside the courtroom) appearance, to doodling during the Counsel's song, Shilling gives a first-rate performance.

The chorus is also very strong with every bridesmaid slim and lovely, the Jury looking every inch the stuffy Victorian gentlemen they are (except when occasionally allowed to let their hair down - at one point the Foreman accidentally elbows a fellow juryman in the face during a brief dance visibly temporarily stunning the recipient of the blow!).

All-in-all, whether you like your Trials à la D'Oyly Carte, or performed in a "Carry On G&S" style à la Frankie Howerd and Brent-Walker, most people should enjoy this seldom-seen thoughtful, but fun, production, ending with the Usher and Associate enjoying a well-earned drink, feet up amongst the Judge's scattered legal papers.