Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

Never The Sinner
 by John Logan   directed by Suzanne Jones

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, April 2005

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A Review of Never The Sinner
by Julie Petrucci

In 1924, two young millionaires , Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb, abducted and killed fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks, horrifying a nation. Never the Sinner is John Logan's documentary play about the infamous Leopold and Loeb case, known in its time as the "crime of the century" and still one of the most notorious. Considering themselves Nietzsche's "supermen, they decided to commit the "perfect murder, just for the thrill of it. In the ensuing sensational trial, the legendary Clarence Darrow, who got them life sentences rather than the expected execution, defended them.
The play covers one year in the boys' lives, but it is performed in an episodic style, jumping from trial scenes to pre-crime scenes to jail scenes. This, during the first act, had me feeling it would make a good radio play.  However, in act two, which was set in the main in the courtroom, the whole became clearer to me and I was drawn in to the drama.

The stage was used on two levels in a totally stark setting.  At times depicting a Chicago skyline indicating external scenes, sometimes against a black backdrop, and, in the courtroom, the addition of a very large collage of newspaper headlines was cleverly used to depict the newspaper reporters corner. Lighting Designer Mark Easterfield created a wide range of impressively lit areas which enhanced the atmosphere of the play and Graham Potter's sound was expertly used to denote scene change and location.

Director Suzanne Jones made a marvellous job of casting and the production contained some terrific performances.  Kyle Hubbard portrayed well the cold, emotionless, Nathan 'Babe' Leopold Jr.  The controlled stillness of his performance lent a great deal to his characterisation of 'Babe' only broken by the depth of his obsessive feelings for Loeb.  Declan Lynch has great personal magnetism, which he used to the full in this role.  His Richard Loeb was charismatic, witty and enthusiastic, planning and doing things for the thrill of it all.  But when the chips were down he was just a young boy begging his friend to take the blame for striking the fatal blow so his own mother wouldn't be 'upset'. 


Colin Lawrence as Clarence Darrow brought a much-needed touch of courtroom humour to the proceedings.  His summarising was eloquent and moving: his description of hanging chilling.  David Foyle as his protagonist Robert Crowe was a worthy opponent and the scenes between these two actors were highlights of the play.  Once again we have actors  (Brenda Cottis, Derek Matravers and Derek Brown) capable of lead roles doing cameos and it gave the production added dimension to have their expertise.  However, it was also good to see up and coming actors like Hannah Smith holding her own with the experienced.  Several actors new to me who I hope we shall see more of are Susan McGregor, Cara McLean and Jonathan Church who played the reporters with great conviction.  Compliments to Jonathan Church for constant note taking!  The cast was completed by Ray Maillou making a very brief appearance as Sergeant Gortland.

Living in an age when horrific murders and atrocities are daily front-page news this play still manages to appal one and I was aware of the need to remember that this is a piece of theatre based on a true story, which in a way made the whole thing more horrifying.  This was a splendid production of a very complex play that sent you away from the theatre trying to fathom, as Clarence Darrow did over 80 years ago, why?