The Circuit: articles

Where the law shows its flaws

FEW TV shows have appealed to our insatiable fascination for legal theatre with such exoticism as The Circuit, SBS's wrenching outback courtroom drama series.

The show, starring Aaron Pedersen as Aboriginal legal service lawyer Drew Ellis and Gary Sweet as magistrate Peter Lockhart, finishes tonight in a magical episode full of almost Shakespearean surprises.

With compelling originality, The Circuit spins some of the conventions of TV courtroom drama and cop show and wraps them up in a culturally complex family saga.

Like so many heroes in popular fiction, Lockhart and Ellis, in their very different ways, act out the myth that society and the organised processes of law, however necessary, are incapable of bringing about true justice, especially in the frontier towns of far north Western Australia, where windows are latticed against the sun and frequent cyclones, and the featureless spinifex landscape stretches away geometrically to infinity.

The Circuit's stories juxtapose the private realm against a public authority that disburses prosecution, conviction and punishment.

And the lawmakers have to do their work on the run as the audience travels with Lockhart's legal circus into the dusty banality and absurdity of outback justice.

The series carries with it a terrible sense of disappointment and few moments of hope.

The system has been broken for a long time and it will be longer before it is fixed, regardless of the storm that has descended over Aboriginal Australia in real life since the series first aired more than two years ago.

But for all the moral and social confrontations The Circuit evokes, it is made with a kind of devoted tough love and compassionate humour that avoids mawkishness while cutting to the emotional heart of its concerns.

By Graeme Blundell
January 05, 2010
The Australia