Daphne Adam

Last night, the ADC was host to a centuries-long anticipated party, as the ghosts of London's criminal underbelly arrived on-stage to tell their stories in the original production of The Old Baily Alumni Network. The play is a new production by ADC Theatre based on the eighteenth-century records and testimonials from the Old Bailey court, where those tried for their crimes have resurrected for a final party. Full of drama, as I suspect most reunions are, The Old Bailey Alumni Network dusts off the old records to bring an amusing yet heavy look at the past's injustices.

“Tender scenes were treated with respect as The Old Bailey Alumni Network sought to highlight the inequities endured” 

Although I was initially slightly frightened by the possibility of audience participation, the opening actor's stand-up style jokes did an excellent job of engaging and orienting the audience with the show. The whole cast was fantastic in their roles, embodying each of their characters with a personal twist. Considering these were real people and events, tender scenes were treated with respect as The Old Bailey Alumni Network sought to highlight the inequities endured by queer people, sex workers, and minority groups have, and continue to face, in the British legal system. Through choreography and costume, the play modernised these old court cases to demonstrate the timely political continuity.

Director Dixie McDevitt took an organic approach to the script, which, while based on real testimonials from the Old Bailey, developed with the rehearsals as the actors embellished the stories of real people, creating their characters and humanising the sometimes graphic and traumatising cases. The production was clearly well researched, but perhaps the looser attitude to the script contributed to the slightly disjointed feeling in the show. Sudden contrasts between dance sequences and emotional monologues left either one or the other feeling out of place in the tone of the show. However, the joviality did not necessarily detract from the overall serious messages, the tones simply felt occasionally mismatched.


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Since this was a dance party, the music was integral to the show, helping tell the stories while grounding the production in the present and bringing humour to the transition scenes. Arranged and live DJed by Eliza Pepper, the tracks were an interesting mix of modern hip hop and pop, remixed with some eighteenth-century bangers. While this style wasn't entirely to my taste, the music was a clever way of bridging the past and the present. Despite the party sometimes being so loud the audience couldn't hear the dialogue on stage, the DJing added to the fun of the production and was key in creating and changing the atmosphere as needed.

Though slightly biased as the play did focus on my favourite period, I enjoyed the history-come-to-life style of The Old Baily Alumni Network. Despite the few issues that are expected of a new production, the performance was an overall enjoyable experience, tinged with political relevancy. With a little refinement, ADC Theatre could have another excellent production under its belt, and certainly better than some other similar style plays I have seen. If you don't mind synthesised medieval-style versions of Montero, The Old Baily Alumni Network is a new ghost story for the history students (or even appreciators) among us.