Denis Lill on tour in new play The Verdict

Denis Lill appears in The Verdict as Moe Katz
Denis Lill appears in The Verdict as Moe Katz

DENIS LILL HAS joined the cast of a touring theatrical production of the celebrated legal courtroom drama The Verdict.

Brought to the stage by The Middle Ground Theatre Company, this new production of the stage play, adapted from Barry Reed’s acclaimed novel by Margaret May Hobbs, is appearing at theatres across the UK and Ireland between now and the end of May.

Lill takes on the role of Moe Katz, a character he describes as a “rather tired and rather clapped out Jewish lawyer in Boston.” Katz has been the mentor to younger lawyer Frank Galvin since he left the US Marines. Katz has taken Galvin “under his wing, coached him and mentored him throughout the course of his career,” Lill explains.

Galvin (Ian Kelsey) himself is a troubled figure, battling with alcohol dependency and professional failings. But when Galvin picks up a hospital malpractice case it energises him to seek justice for a young mother, challenge the medical and legal establishments, and perhaps find redemption for himself in the process.

The Cotswold Life‘s review of the show’s run at the Everyman Theatre iin Cheltenham earlier this month, suggests that Lill “brought an utterly heart-warming humanity to the whole production.”

Galvin & Moe (Ian Kelsey & Denis Lill) in The Verdict

The Verdict by Barry Reed

Directed and designed by Michael Lunney.  Adapted by Margaret May Hobbs.


The Powerful Bestselling Courtroom Thriller that inspired a multi Academy Award-Nominated film.

Frank Galvin is a washed up veteran lawyer and an alcoholic. He is presented with one last chance to redeem himself when he is given an open-and-shut medical malpractice case that no one thinks he can win. Up against the unforgiving medical establishment, he courageously refuses an out of court settlement, believing it is negligence that has condemned a young mother. Smelling a cover up, he instead takes the case and the entire legal system to court.

You will recall the five times OSCAR nominated Sidney Lumet film with Paul Newman, James Mason and Charlotte Rampling.

Ian Kelsey is known by millions for his regular roles in Blue Murder, Emmerdale, Casualty, Down To Earth, Where The Heart Is, Doctors and Coronation Street.  Denis Lill is best known for playing Alan Parry (father of Casandra) in Only Fools and Horses, as well as regular roles in The Royal, Rumpole Of The Bailey, The Regiment, Survivors and many more. They are joined by Paul Opacic (Bad Girls/Emmerdale/Hollyoaks), Christopher Ettridge (Goodnight Sweetheart), Richard Walsh(London’s Burning), Karen Drury (Brookside), Josephine Rogers, Michael Lunney, Okon Jones, Anne Kavanagh, Holly Jackson Walters, James Morley, Jog Maher, Alexandra Fisher and Greg Fitch.

The characters of Moe, Galvin and Dr Thompson (Denis Lill, Ian Kelsey and Okon Jones) in The Verdict

Denis Lill talks theatre and The Verdict

DENIS LILL recently spoke to the Bournemouth Echo about his appearance in The Verdict, and the pleasures and the perils of touring theatre…

Describe the character that you are playing in the Verdict?

He’s a 75-year-old, rather tired and rather clapped out Jewish lawyer in Boston and he’s the man who plucked our main character of the play, Frank Galvin, off the boat, straight from the war in his U.S Royal Marines uniform. Taken him under his wing, coached him and mentored him throughout the course of his career.

As an actor what is the biggest challenge when you are discovering a new character?

The biggest challenge, apart from learning the words and getting them all in the right order, is about getting under the skin of that character and finding out what makes him tick and what makes him sound right as well. For me it’s very important for a character, particularly an American character to actually sound right, he has to be believable, the last thing you want is an audience saying he doesn’t sound quite right, sometimes an English actor doing an American accent doesn’t quite sound right, but in our case we are very lucky, we have a great cast and everybody seems to be able to do exactly what they are asked to do.

Is it difficult for you to do an American accent?

No, it’s never been a problem for me. I was born and brought up in New Zealand and during the war, when I was a baby we used to have American soldiers billeted in our house from the Pacific Theatre and I think possibly subconsciously when I was one or two I got used to the sounds of these American voices, plus the fact that I was brought up on American movies and I love Westerns.

Do you share any of the same personality traits as Moe Katz?

Not a single one I don’t think, Moe Katz drinks Earl Grey Tea, which is something that I do from time to time not a lot else in common though which is actually good as it means I can reinvent myself as the character, right from scratch and it works, which is a nice part of being an actor. You have to have that chameleon charisma about yourself, so you can adapt, adopt and steal outrageously from people.

What do you like about the play The Verdict?

That’s easy, the quality of the writing is without parallel and having waded my way in the past through tours and plays which have been either been badly adapted or badly written, it’s such a relief to come across literary quality like this because it does a lot of the work for you. Also I’m a great stickler for discipline, writers don’t use a word just because it’s a word they use it for a specific reason, and I’ve met some actors who just regard the script as a rough guide as to what they are going to be saying but I stick to it as I have a great respect for writers. I try to be as accurate as I can as far as their script is concerned and this script is no exception, in fact this script is probably an essential as the quality of the writing is just so wonderful.

You are a very familiar face from T.V roles in Only Fools and Horses, The Royal, Rumpole of the Bailey etc – is TV or Theatre your true love?

I have a love hate relationship with the theatre, it’s a very inconvenient work place as far as one is working very unsociable hours, particularity if one is working in the West End, at the end of the show one is spat out and you have to get your head down, head for the nearest tube station and go home. But by the same token the creative process is very, very exciting unlike television or film where you are literally thrown in and you’re cast mainly by the way you look. Television I enjoy, I like the hours, film is even better as you are out there in a field somewhere, your sword in one hand, hacking away at people and galloping around, that’s great fun, it’s brilliant fun! There are lots of pros and cons in every medium, but as far as my favourite? Films pay the best but theatre is more satisfying!

Nicky Findley. 2019. ‘Only Fools and Horses actor in legal drama at Lighthouse Poole,’ The Bournemouth Echo, 14 February

Galvin & Moe (Ian Kelsey & Denis Lill) in The Verdict

The Verdict: tour dates

  • Tues 19th – Sat 23rd February – Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
  • Tues 26th February – Sat 2nd March – Lighthouse, Poole
  • Tues 5th – Sat 9th March – Theatr Clwyd, Mold
  • Tues 12th – Sat 16th March – Coliseum Theatre, Oldham
  • Tues 19th – Sat 23rd March – Theatre Royal, Winchester
  • Weds 27th – Sat 30th March – Jersey Opera House
  • Tues 9th – Sat 13th April – Grand Theatre, Blackpool
  • Tues 16th – Sat 20th April – Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
  • Tues 30th April – Sat 4th May – Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
  • Tues 7th – Sat 11th May – Eden Court Theatre, Inverness
  • Tues 21st – Sat 25th May – Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Mary Rooney & Moe Katz (Karen Drury, Denis Lill & Alexandra Fisher) in The Verdict

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