Showtrial - Introduction by Ben Richards



Introduction by Ben Richards

"Trials - and the cases that produce them - have always fascinated me, both because of their social and moral implications, but also because of the drama of uncertainty that they produce. What can we ever say we know for certain? Can we really get to a stage of knowing it beyond reasonable doubt? How do our prejudices affect the outcome of justice? To what extent should the right to a fair trial take precedence over our need for a culprit and understandable instincts for revenge?

All these issues played out in the writing of Showtrial (which began several years ago and was completed and shot during the pandemic). Trials of course are the result of a criminal investigation, and so we wanted to show all the elements - from the moment of arrest to the delivery of the verdict. Along the way, the prosecution and defence will grapple with the same evidence, seeking to build a case where the stakes for those accused could not be higher: the potential exchange of freedom for a prison cell.

The scripts were informed by elements of many trials that I have avidly followed and that have gripped the public consciousness. I was especially interested in defences where one suspect tries to blame another to minimise their involvement, or defences based around dubious claims to 'games gone wrong' as well as cases where there was a very strong body of evidence against a suspect, but still a kernel of doubt remained.

Feeding into all of this were issues of privilege of one sort or another. In the case of Talitha Campbell I was fascinated by the way in which her social class - which normally afforded her status and freedom - became a trap when it was linked to her gender and sexual history through the media-created figure of ‘Lady Tease’. And while we catch only glimpses of Hannah Ellis, whose murder leads to the trial, I also wanted to show the misery of the relatives of victims: condemned to the agony of knowing that no punishment will ever bring back the child they miss so much and whose final suffering they can never undo.

Ultimately, I think this show reflects or touches on a number of issues, but it is not driven by any single one of them. They are part of a complex matrix of factors which inform any criminal trial, and they are treated with humour as well as seriousness. My central concern with all the characters is their moral core - whether that is through Cleo (Talitha’s solicitor) and her insistence on due process for all, or James (the CPS lawyer) whose essential gentleness (a rare quality in male characters on television) is allied with a troubled conscience; or DI Cassidy (the chief investigating officer), with her determination to punish those she believes responsible for Hannah’s death.

Where Showtrial is, I think, different from many legal shows is in trying to show the angle of view of all sides of the case without necessarily privileging or demonising any of them. I am so grateful for such a talented cast and a brilliant director in Zara Hayes, who turned the scripts into everything I could have hoped for with flair and humour and the critical understanding that in the end - whatever the jury decides - you must make your own minds up based on the evidence with which you have been presented."

Cast and Creative credits

Tracy Ifeachor - Cleo Roberts
Celine Buckens - Talitha Campbell
James Frain - Damian Campbell
Sinéad Keenan - DI Paula Cassidy
Kerr Logan - James Thornley
Abra Thompson - Hannah Ellis
Christopher Hatherall - Andy Lowel
Joseph Payne - Dhillon Harwood
Sharon D Clarke - Virginia Hoult
Lolita Chakrabarti - Meera Harwood
Ben Richards - Writer and Executive Producer
Zara Hayes - Director
Christopher Hall - Producer
Simon Heath - Executive Producer for World Productions
Mona Qureshi - Executive Producer for the BBC

Source BBC One

October 26, 2021 8:19am ET by BBC One  


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