Fraser’s play “1215 and all that” staged at the Lawyers’ Inn

On June 15, 1215 at Runnymede the barons of England persuaded King John to place his seal on Magna Carta. This document is the cornerstone of the Rule of Law, and places no man – even the King – above the law. Canada, and particularly British Columbia, traces its freedoms and rights back to Magna Carta.

In Vancouver, the Lawyers’ Inn celebrated the 800th anniversary of this event by staging a play I wrote (some would call it a fantasy) to commemorate that great day in our legal history. “1215 and all that” explores the Magna Carta’s influence in British Columbia.

It was performed by lawyers and professionals in front of an appreciative audience of 250 lawyers and guests at the Lawyers’ Inn on June 15, 2015 – 800 years to the day.

Playwright: Bruce Fraser QC, in collaboration with Martin Taylor QC
Director: Katrina Dunn

Judges: Jim Vilvang QC, The Honourable Lance Finch QC, Terry Laliberte QC
King John: David Hay
Judge Manson: Arthur Ross
Tom Berger: Roger Watts
Queen Victoria: Caroline Nevin
Ghosts: Craig Giles, Elizabeth Reid.
Chief Justice Lamer: Art Vertlieb  QC
Chief Justice: Hamish Cameron QC
Clerk of the Court: Aseem Dosanjh
Musicians: David Hay, Robert Burns
Chorus: Christopher Gaze OBC

This is my review of the performance:

Last night at the Lawyers’ Inn, lawyers and professionals staged a show about the Magna Carta. The professionals were Christopher Gaze, the artistic director and founder of the Bard on the Beach and Katrina Dunn, director with Touchstone Theatre in Vancouver. Their participation was crucial to the success of the play.

Everyone knows the story of King John and the Magna Carta, but there are ways to interpret this event and developing law to make it relevant to a modern Canadian audience.

The Lawyers’ Inn Repertory Company production was not only entertaining, but also extremely successful in making an old story new again. The costumes, set and acting were crucial and spectacular in pulling off the desired effect – the enlightenment of the law in British Columbia.

The script tested the boundaries of credibility and was described as a fantasy. Had it not been for the expert direction of Katrina Dunn, it would have failed. It didn’t fail.

The play rested on a solid troupe of actors each of whom gave his and her best performance – from the judges’ postures (Jim Vilvang, Lance Finch and Terry Laliberte) to Christopher Gaze’s gripping oration; from David Hay’s marvellous over-the-top rendition of King John, to Arthur Ross’s growth of Judge Manson from gruff to gracious.

The crisp and confident Tom Berger (played convincingly by Roger Watts) counterbalanced by an older and wiser Baron Berger (played by Tom Berger).

The casting of Queen Victoria and Sir John A was inspired, and Caroline Nevin will no doubt remain in character for a while as will David Lunny.

The play had overtones of Shakespeare and Dickens, with its rhymed couplets and ghosts. The ghosts Craig Giles and Elizabeth Reid  were dazzling.

The Court scenes, starring Art Vertlieb and Hamish Cameron, were authoritatively framed by the  voice of the clerk Aseem Dosanjh.

Chris Harvey the actor had one of the more difficult roles of playing Chris Harvey the lawyer. He chose to play the lawyer’s more gentle side.

Ending an evening of fun is always tricky, but thanks to David Hay and Robert Burns rendition of Runnymede the audience left in a singing festive mood.