Theatre | Dramatic light on blind belief |Ken Longworth

TIMELESS THEME: The cast of Inherit the Wind, which is being staged by Newcastle Theatre Company. Photo: Debra Hely
TIMELESS THEME: The cast of Inherit the Wind, which is being staged by Newcastle Theatre Company. Photo: Debra Hely

THE casting of Katy Carruthers as a defence lawyer in Newcastle Theatre Company’s staging of the drama Inherit the Wind is very much in line with the play’s subject.

The events in Inherit the Wind, which was written in 1955, were drawn from a 1925 trial of a young male high school teacher in the southern US state Tennessee for talking to his students about evolution. The Tennessee population was then one of the most religious in the US and its government had passed legislation banning the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The court case, which became known as “the Monkey Trial”, was followed by people around the world.

Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee put Inherit the Wind together as a response to the efforts of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to have people he saw as making Communist-style statements forced to appear before a congressional committee and facing criminal charges. 

 Director Pearl Nunn said that while the Tennessee setting has been retained in the NTC production, the characters wear contemporary clothing to show the timelessness of the situations. “Perhaps similar things could happen in Donald Trump’s America,” she said.

As written, all the officials and legal personnel involved in the trial, plus the jurors, are male, in line with the customs of the first half of the 20th century. In line with the play’s call for people to be able to make fair comments on all issues, Nunn has changed the defence lawyer, Henry Drummond, to Henrietta, and included women among the jury members and reporter. And making the defender a woman adds to the sharpness of the courtroom exchanges between Drummond and the prosecuting attorney, Matthew Harrison Brady, played by Lindsay Carr.

Lee Mayne, who plays Bertram Cates, the science teacher on trial, said he is liked by his students and ironically is in a romantic relationship with a fellow teacher who is the daughter of the town’s fundamentalist preacher, Reverend Brown.

The cast also includes Brian Wark as the trial judge, Paul Sansom as the preacher, Belinda Hodgson as his daughter, Carl Gregory as a journalist, Noel Grivas as the court’s bailiff, Stephanie Cunliffe-Jones as the district attorney, and Jennifer White, Lotte Coakes-Jenkins, Sean Heffron, Phil Haywood, Judith Schofield, Maxine Mueller, Corinne Lavis, Mike Peters, Bridget Barry and John Wood.

Inherit the Wind opens on Saturday, August 26, with 8pm performances on Saturday, Wednesday and Friday, until September 9, plus 2pm matinees on Sunday, August 27, and Saturday, September 2. Tickets: $31, $25 concession.

Bookings: 4952 4958.