The Trial of Jane Fonda at Park Theatre
This interesting play by Terry Jastrow explores and explains the controversy caused by Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War. It’s altogether good but it does beg the question Why now? Why here?
In 1972, the famous actress travelled to Hanoi and was filmed singing and laughing with the enemy. The Trial of Jane Fonda is set 16 years later in 1988 when protesting veterans are halting the production of her new movie and she decides to hold a meeting in a church and talk to some of the soldiers.
It seems like an odd place and time to be talking about Vietnam. For many in London, the play won’t reveal anything they didn’t already know and believe about the war. And there are few parallels to draw without clutching at very thin straws. Perhaps an older audience, who remember Vietnam and Jane Fonda’s actions may feel more engaged by this drama.
The production appears to be a homage to the classic movie 12 Angry Men, produced by and starring the actress’ father Henry Fonda. The play’s protagonist enters a room full of angry men, all of whom are vehemently opposed to her but one by one they start to come around. But The Trial of Jane Fonda fails to do in 100 minutes what 12 Angry Men achieved in 96. While the veterans begin as believable characters with understandable hang-ups and anger, they don’t quite stay that way. They change their minds too suddenly. Rather than one person slowly changing their opinion, followed by another, then more, for 85 minutes the vets are all on one side and then they suddenly all switch at the end.
This is by no means a bad show: It’s certainly intriguing to hear the different sides of the story, knowing that sometimes two opposing views can both be “right” and neither should be put down. The performances, the accents and the emotions are all perfect. Anne Archer (of Fatal Attraction fame) as Jane Fonda is marvellous to watch. It’s maybe not her most demanding role ever but it’s a wonderfully well-written character and she performs it brilliantly. The actors portraying the veterans are more than good enough to share the stage with Archer.
Overall, The Trial of Jane Fonda is a solid play with many interesting elements. But does it achieve what it sets out to do? Probably not.
The Trial of Jane Fonda is on at Park Theatre from 13th July until 20th August 2016, for further information or to book visit here.