Crime writers turn 'jurors' for online murder trial
Published on 16 July 2020
Top crime writers who have devised countless gruesome killings will guess whodunit when an interactive theatre piece co-developed at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS) makes its online debut next week.
Between them they have devised countless gruesome killings, but it will be the turn of top crime writers to guess whodunit when an interactive theatre piece co-developed at the University of Dundee’s Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS) makes its online debut next week.
‘The Evidence Chamber’ was designed to raise questions about how we respond to the communication of different types of evidence and how our preconceptions can affect decisions, by allowing members of the public to play the role of juror in a murder trial.
The live show, which saw participants gather in a real jury deliberation room, premiered at the University’s Festival of the Future last year. Experience design studio Fast Familiar have now reimagined it as an interactive courtroom drama for remote audiences.
Writers Val McDermid, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Craig Robertson will be among the jurors when the show premieres on Thursday 23 July. Members of the public will be able to take their place in the virtual jury box from the following day. It was named by The Guardian as one of hottest theatre and dance shows to watch online.
The world-leading expertise of the LRCFS team helped the show’s producers to provide insights into how forensic evidence is presented in court. Live performances have proved particularly popular with crime fiction and true crime fans, and the online version is also expected to be a hit with aficionados of these genres. It is also helping to further LRCFS research into the use of digital technology in the courtroom.
Professor Niamh Nic Daéid, Director of LRCFS, said, “We are delighted that Fast Familiar have repurposed The Evidence Chamber for remote audiences, as discovering innovating new ways of communicating forensic science is vital to our mission to ensure that the evidence presented in court is as scientifically robust as possible.
“When juries are making decisions about a person’s guilt or innocence, it is vital that they have confidence in their understanding of the scientific robustness of the evidence presented to them. That is why we work creatively and collaboratively to make science accessible to the public within the criminal justice context.”
The Evidence Chamber is also an exploration of how we make decisions, what we find persuasive and how being part of a group can affect our decisions. Part interactive theatre, part social experiment, it asks a group of strangers sat in their own homes to reach a verdict on a difficult fictional case.
Reeta Banerjee, a celebrated human rights activist, is found dead at her home. Electrical good are missing from her office – is this a burglary gone wrong? The suspect, Andrew Davidson, swears he wasn’t there – but can he really be trusted? The evidence doesn’t paint a clear picture. In an online jury deliberation room, participants will watch the testimonies and scrutinise the evidence before debating them with fellow jurors before they reach their verdict.
Best-selling author Val McDermid, an Honorary Graduate of the University, said, “What goes on behind the closed doors of a jury room is constantly intriguing. We've all been astonished by verdicts. For me, having the inside track on weighing the evidence will be a real treat.”
Fast Familiar is a new venture between ex-theatre company fanSHEN and award-winning computational artist Joe McAlister. Together, they make artworks which are participatory, playful and political, and use digital technology in innovative ways to create new forms of human connection.
The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science is an agile research centre designed to positively disrupt the forensic science ecosystem. Their aims are to adapt, adjust and revise the science underpinning the evidence presented in courts, to ensure it is robust and fit for purpose.
The Evidence Chamber takes place at various times from Friday 24 July to Thursday 8 August. Participation is limited to 12 people per show and tickets, costing £5-£12, can be purchased via Eventbrite.
The online version of The Evidence Chamber is supported by Arts Council England via their Covid-19 Emergency Grants scheme.
+44 (0)1382 384768G.Hill@dundee.ac.uk