My first time in Oxford Town Hall’s Court Room was much more entertaining than it could have been. This was the setting for Tight Five/Comedy in Oxford’s Mock Trial and it certainly set the scene, with the audience looking round at the grand room in anticipation of what was to come.
Once we had filled out our ‘crime reports’ and handed them back to the cast, we were asked to rise for The Right Honourable Judge Ofthat (Tight Five co-creator Harry Househam). Judge Ofthat made it clear that his courtroom was a place of fun and interest, beginning proceedings by calling on a pair to perform a re-enactment of a most heinous crime selected from the freshly filled out crime reports: wearing a Westlife jumper. After the prosecution and defence had helped inform a concussed criminal that they had indeed murdered some – apparently “not a crime in Oxford” – in the Town Hall (which made it illegal) and the lawyers had a rap battle about the crime of too few water balloons at a birthday party, we moved on to the case at hand: Mrs. Smith stood accused of forcing Mrs. Biggins to jump on a trampoline against her will. Shocking stuff!
While the charge may sound simplistic, nothing could have prepared the audience for the many twists and turns the case took including shocking revelations, corruption, life-changing jumble sales, seemingly endless deceit, adultery and attempted murder – very worthy of a court room drama!
Dom O’Keefe’s creepy winking Mr. Smith, complete with a distinctive ‘Banbury’ accent, was the highlight of the proceedings – O’Keefe’s drawl and deadpan performance drew many laughs from the audience. Chesca Forristal’s Jeeves N Jeeves QC Prosecution, looked and sounded the part, providing many witty retorts and an admirable defence even if she did incriminate herself! Ed Scrivens as the Defence kept in character and actually sounded convincing as a lawyer though I’m not sure I’d trust his qualification from LawAcademy... Vicky Hawley as both the accused's son ‘Just Jim’ and the accused Mrs. Smith was entertaining to watch, giving us some great one-liners. Lydia France as the victim Mrs. Biggins, and later on as the pseudo-scientist, was excellent at improvising and developing a distinctive character on the spot. Pianist Joe Zacaroli enhanced the flashbacks with atmospheric music but I wish he’d been utilised a little more during the trial. Judge Ofthat did well to keep this motley crew under control, ensuring that the correct protocol was followed: “Do you swear on the holy book of horticulture to tell the whole truth?”
The sketch as a whole was very engaging with lots of amusing moments. The cast were most successful when they kept in character without allowing themselves to be distracted by their own funniness. The use of a court room is fantastic – I hope to see more improvised comedy inside unusual venues in the future!
With the sentences handed out - “no internet connection for three years” - and the majority of the guilty parties incarcerated, the audience left amused if slightly disorientated by the evening’s proceedings.