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West End

The Trials – Donmar Warehouse

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A painful yet inspiring story, filled with so much young actors’ energy, you could fuel the whole planet with this sustainable teenage fire. If this is what the next wave of acting looks like, sign me up for every single upcoming play, please!

The company of The Trials © Helen Murray

This is what young acting looks like – and it’s fabulous

I have to start with what impressed me the most: the cast of “The Trials”. Most of them are born after 2000 and represent a strong upcoming West End wave of young acting. For many of them it’s a professional debut. Heck, I felt old looking at them (and I’m 33, so hey, not so old myself I hope). The team is completed by 3 adults, experienced actors, who shine in their roles but don’t overshadow the rest of the cast’s presence.

The company of The Trials © Helen Murray

There are 12 young cast members and the beauty of the play is that each of them has a strongly drawn character, sometimes also a life story that we discover. It’s not easy to manage so many strong roles on stage – and what’s more, make them all almost equally important in the show. Here, even though the play is just 90 minutes long, it’s done in a light, natural manner without ever feeling like the dialogues are lengthy or unnatural sounding.

The gloomy future

The story is terrifyingly realistic. We are based in the near future (2040). Humans have completely destroyed the climate and planet – what we call “climate change” is now a catastrophe. Adults, called “dinosaurs” who have lived an unsustainable life or worked in unethical industries, are put on trial for their crimes against the planet. Judges are teenagers, grouped in teams on 12. They have 15 minutes to decide the fate of each prosecuted in a quick trial – and the punishment is… death.

The company of The Trials © Helen Murray

The stage set is brilliant. It’s simple and bare, with a couple of tables with chairs (which are an incredibly dynamic part of the set, being moved around constantly), and a “mountain” of benches at the back of the stage. The back of the stage is used as a spot for the characters to climb, lay down, or jump from. The whole movement design is a pleasure to look at, highlighted by light design that focuses the audience’s attention to specific spots on the stage. The young actors are well-directed in their positions and movement, but also seem to feel extremely comfortable and somehow freestyle their presence as well.

The final statements of trialed adults highlight emotions using a live camera recording. This lets the audience look at the face of the prosecuted closely, almost like in a movie where the camera focuses on the smallest facial expressions. Here it’s used to its full advantage.

The company of The Trials © Helen Murray

“The Trials”: story for both Gen Z and the Dinosaurs

The story is so strong and relatable, that it will resonate both with the “dinosaurs” and gen Z. It’s a play that sparks conversations – after the show I went to the Seven Dials Market and heard multiple post-show conversations still ongoing. It’s not every day that you experience a play that echos so much with the audience.

One of the ways in which the show amplifies its message is the post-bows art installation. Faces of actors are displayed on the wall, one by one. Each with a quote from the actor, about their hopes for the future. I wish more directors came up with this type of post-show piece, it’s rare to see it in the West End!

The Trials Production – Joe Locke . Photo by Helen Murray

It’s a 5-star show for me, but if I were to use one word to describe this play, it would be “uncomfortable”. It’s a pleasure to watch, but it’s also an impactful piece that aims to make us all rethink own life choices.


“The Trials” By Dawn King at Donmar Warehouse

12 August 2022 – 27 August 2022

Directed by Natalie Abrahami

A Donmar Local Production: identifying talent of the future and proudly platforming them and the issues that matter. 

Zuzanna Chmielewska

Digital Marketer by profession, published travel book author, avid theatre goer and an amateur Malaysia tour guide in my free time. Find me in one of London's theatres, travelling in Asia or cooking and photographing new recipes in my kitchen. I would try anything once (at least!). My theatre blog:



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