Lawrence and Lee’s courtroom drama is based on the 1925 US Tennessee case where a schoolteacher is put on trial for teaching evolution in class.
At first glance it’s a run of the mill science versus religion debate but dig a little deeper and it’s a study of the danger of having unquestioning faith in authority, rigid individual belief systems and sensationalising in the media.
Richard Agar is terrific as Henry Drummond, who defends teacher Bert Cates, played by Nathan Spencer. He is denied every possible avenue of defence by the biased judge but still manages to humiliate presidential candidate and prosecution attorney Matthew Harrison Brady. In a spectacular cross-examining, Drummond alludes that Brady is a modern day prophet to much scorn and hilarity in the courtroom.
There is a nice cameo from Dan Turner as fundamentalist preacher Reverend Brown. His fire and brimstone sermon, which whips up religious fervour in his flock, in time with flashes of strobe lighting, is sensibly calmed down by the more moderate Brady, played by Dominic Corfield.
Bethan Ratcliffe is cynical journalist E.K. Hornbeck who convinces all and sundry that she is after the truth when really she just wants an exciting story to sell her newspaper.
Lawrence and Lee I feel missed a trick by not discussing Darwin’s theory more fully. The court gagged Drummond not the authors.
Drummond does get to utter some wise words outside of court however. It takes a smart man to say: ‘I don’t know the answer.’