Another Delightful Result tells the story of a developer whose new shopping centre roof leaks, which means she can't let some units. The contractor claims this is a result of last-minute variations, and it was the fault of a subcontractor nominated by the developer. Money is withheld. A claim is made. It all ends up in mediation.
But why a play? "It was just a fun way of doing it," says Philip Barnes, writer, director and partner in solicitor Campbell Hooper. "Mediation is a feelgood experience."
The production, which included five action-packed scenes and three lavish sets, lasts 25 minutes and was worth a continuing professional development point just to see. The cast was made up of lawyers from Campbell Hooper and its clients. The profound grief of the developer (Annette Fritze-Shanks) at the tragedy of the leaking roof was evident. The contractor (Jonathan Turner) was livid about the withheld cash. The air was filled with drama.
OK, that's an exaggeration. The heavy talk of nomination, variation, payment and liability was tempered by humour and ad-libbing. When the mediator took one of the parties into a private session, a cardboard "wall" was placed in the middle of the table that formed the set. A few amusing stereotypes cropped up, including the contractor's lawyer (Doug McKenzie) pausing dramatically for a sip of water before stating his case, and the developer's man (Terry Crabb) holding up proceedings to fill in his attendance note: "It will only take 30 minutes …"
The real star of the piece was the mediator, Jeremy Storey QC, whose careful questioning and identification of the core issues of the dispute manoeuvre the parties into an amicable settlement. "I was thrilled to be asked to take part," says Storey. He explains that mediation can often defuse the adversarial nature of a dispute. "The parties want to express their anger. Once they've done that in front of a judicial figure, they feel that justice has been done."
The purpose of the evening was to give a boost to alternative dispute resolution. "The word 'alternative' has a bad reputation," Barnes says. "You've alternative medicine that doesn't work, and alternative comedians who aren't funny."
Campbell Hooper and Barnes deserve praise for distilling a 10-hour mediation into 25 minutes and presenting it in such an imaginative way.
The audience was generous in its praise of its execution – only one person had a dissenting view. "As confusing and interminable as the real thing," he muttered into the canapés.
Speaking of alternative, it can only be a good thing if more lawyers find such engaging ways to present their services and knowledge.