Review: The Trials, Donmar Warehouse

Dawn King’s youth-led and excellent The Trials deserves a longer run at the Donmar Warehouse

“I wasn’t any worse than anyone else”

The Trials falls under the Donmar Local Production umbrella, “identifying talent of the future and proudly platforming them and the issues that matter”, and I wonder if the age of much of the cast has something to do with the brevity of the run. As Dawn King’s thought-provoking play, interestingly directed by Natalie Abrahami, is only on for a couple of weeks which is a real shame as it is really rather good.

Set in a near-future where climate change has tipped right over the balance, where pollution means windows can’t be opened, meat-eating and air travel are banned, and the young people have finally had enough. Forming a court and populating a jury, they’re dragging adults in front of the bench in order to account for the harm they’ve caused to the environment and by extension, to future generations.

Structurally it may be rather simple but King’s writing knows the wisdom of ramming its point home, even as we remain largely blind to it today. Nigel Lindsay’s defendant eats organic, Lucy Cohu’s artist felt helpless, Sharon Small’s oil exec blithely greenwashed the guilt away. And looking back on their actions, there’s a powerful sense of how little we’re actually, really doing and how late it probably is as well.

What is also fascinating is the reaction of the jury – made up of an enthusiastic and mostly excellent young company – which splits down ethical faultlines. Punishment or forgiveness, action or abstention, they all carry their own biases and backstories which dripfeed out in unpredictable ways. Xana’s rumbling sound design is consistently effective too, nailing the uncertain feeling that we might already be too late to avert this climate emergency.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Helen Murray
The Trials is booking at the Donmar Warehouse until 27th August

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