A Few Good Men
Great Baddow Memorial Hall, Chelmsford
Friday 27th January 2012
A hugely popular motion picture, Oscar-nominated in 1993, and starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson & Demi Moore amongst others, not to mention a cast of 16, 15 of whom are written to be played by men, this was a brave choice for Theatre at Baddow to take on.
After entering past the armed Marines at the door, an almost bare stage greeted the audience in the busy Memorial Hall, with lots of different levels and a US Marines crest lit against the back wall. The minimalist staging worked very well with the varying locations required. Furniture and props were kept down to essentials, which helped to keep the scene changes crisp and quick, and to draw attention to the wonderful costumes worn by every single character. Attention to detail went as far as cutting the Marine's hair to a uniform length, and this really added a reality to the style of the piece.
This is essentially a courtroom drama, with the action following a junior military lawyer, who is allocated the defense in a murder case against a pair of Marines at Guantanamo Bay accused of killing a fellow Marine.
Military lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee, Ben Salmon in the iconic Tom Cruise role, was a triumph. He mixed a likeable air of cool with a believable passion and conviction in the case. Ben's delivery was charming and confident, and his accent immaculately consistent. A real find of a performer in his first time with TaB.
He was soundly backed up by family man Lt. Sam Weinberg (John Mabey) and the annoying Lt. Cdr. Joanne Galloway (Kelly McGibney), who both also gave strong performances.
I was especially impressed with the accused, Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson (Bruce Thomson), who acted each moment of stony silence without losing control or concentration. Every flicker of tiny reaction in his facial expression was considered and engaging. A clever and memorable performance considering the relative lack of lines.
Jesse Powis was wonderful as Col. Nathan R. Jessup, conveying his angry, warped sense of honour with relish. The delivery of iconic catchphrases can be daunting, and he successfully maintained his character and control throughout his courtroom examination.
Amongst the rest of the cast, performances were generally very good across the board. Success with the accents was varied in the smaller roles, but largely pretty consistent, which is impressive in such a numerous cast. An excellent start to the year from TaB.