Review: Law Show 2019
Karey Rodgers (3L)
This year’s Law Show, Neverlaw: The Peter Pan Story, continued the trend of transforming our childhood movies into law-themed theatrical productions. All the basic elements of a typical Law Show production were there, but I can confidently say this year was a stand-out—probably one of the best yet, although I admittedly have only seen two other performances. In this review, based on the performance from February 2, 2019, I will go over some of what was really great about the show, and then things will get a bit introspective as I reflect on what Law Show really says about us, as students.
The Good Stuff
The story was about what you would expect: Peter Pan is a runaway articling student hiding out from the stress and responsibilities of the real world. In order to keep his dream-world running (or maybe just because she was hot), Peter lures Wendy, Michelle, and John, three law students struggling to balance work, stress, and their sleep schedules, to the island of Neverlaw (somewhere on the North Saskatchewan).
In Neverlaw, you get to live all the best parts of Law School every day. A Ski Trip that never ends. A campus pub (the Living Tree) that never closes. Low budget, five-hour long Law Show productions that we wish had explosions. The island itself is a “land without laws” which apparently makes zoning a bit of a mess, but mostly just seems to result in discourteous pushing and shoving by the “Lawst Ones”. Of course, no place is every truly without law. In addition to the lawyer-captains from Hook & Associates LLP sailing around the island in the Flying DutchMens Rea, the local mob boss, Crock E. Dile, proves that you can never truly escape the laws of money and power (and without law, no one will stop loan-crocodiles from eating you one appendage at a time if you don’t pay up). In the end, Peter and the Lawst Ones realise that a life of endless partying is not as fulfilling as achieving their goals, and they return to the real world to give articling another shot.
One of the first things I noticed was the sound: the music is always impressive, but this year clearly brought the production a deep well of musical talent. This talent was showcased with an interlude performance featuring drums, electric guitar, and a duel between a violin and an electric cello. The singers were also noticeably more polished this year, indicating not only to the raw talent of the individuals but also the sheer amount of work and practice that must have gone in to getting everyone singing together, on time, and in key.
The performances by the dancers and actors were also great. In particular, Captains Hook and Sparrow stood out. Hook, as the villain, really carried the show, while Sparrow managed to steal every scene he was in.
The most successful elements of the production were often the most simple: law puns and a consistent character. Sometimes student productions tell jokes that are kinda funny, but delivered in such a way that makes listening to them tortuous. Neverlaw had a little of that, but the writing this year really shined when the jokes were easy. Look, putting Taylor Thiessen in an elephant onesie and getting him to squeak out, “there’s nothing… estopping us!” is really all you need to do.
I also really appreciated the way the writers built up the rivalry between Pan and Hook. What begins as a backstory transforms to a roast as the Lawst Ones trade burns with Hook & Associates LLP, and later culminates in an action-packed trial-by-combat in front of Judge Arianna Grande—I mean, Ariel—between Pan and Hook (another brilliant moment was when Captain Hook takes out his trusty sword, Estoppel, only to be told, “but estoppel can only be used as a shield!”. That’s two estoppel puns in one night!). The story didn’t feel like it was dragging on but managed to stay exciting and fun from start to finish, so good job writers.
As an aside, Law Show within a Law Show was great and I would love to see more of Litigator 2: Judgement Enforcement Day.
The Subconscious Anxieties of a Law Student, Writ Large on the Law Show Stage
This year’s production felt like it occurred within the same universe of 2017’s Alice in Wonderlaw. In that older production, Alice faced the dark side of law school partying and the pressure that students can feel to keep up with the excessive drinking. Now, two years later, Law Show gives us a new hero, this time struggling to let go of the “fun parts” of law school and face the challenges of articling.
A recurring theme of Neverlaw is the push and pull between the demands of the profession and basic human needs like sleep. The characters inhabit two extremes: take all the classes, join all the clubs, learn all the laws, or do absolutely nothing. There is no middle. And in the end, none of the characters found that middle either. As Hook is chased off stage by the Croc, Wendy proudly announces that she will continue her high-achieving ways (even though the stress makes her sort of unbearable to be around) and John promises that from now on, he will be a hard-working student too (good luck, kid). The end message seemed to be: yeah it’s hard, but working yourself to an early grave will be worth it because… reasons?
Maybe I just wanted to be told a fairy tale about the possibility of a “work-life balance”, but such a concept was seemingly too far-fetched even for this universe. There, perhaps as here, if you aren’t giving it everything you’ve got, you’d might as well be doing nothing. It would be nice to see the writers push back against that ideology a bit more in future productions, but then again, as law students, are we really in a position to critique the articling process, or is Law Show just an expression of our worst fears? In 2017, the critique of the culture was much clearer, but even then the moral of the story was party less, study more, only this time instead of an evil-LSA president, our worst enemies are ourselves. Oof.