For their final production of the year, the Epicentre Theatre Company has taken on one of the classic courtroom dramas, Reginald Rose’s 1955 masterpiece, TWELVE ANGRY MEN.
The play opens with the twelve jury members congregating in the jury room shortly after having heard the closing arguments in what, at first blush, appears to be a clear-cut homicide case. If the the defendant is found guilty, the sentence is the electric chair.
As is the case with the American legal system, twelve jurors need to unanimously decide on a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. If a decisive verdict is not reached then the jury is declared a hung jury. The prosecution then have the right to seek a retrial.
The audience gets to experience what it is like to be inside the jury room. (Rose wrote the play, inspired by his experience as a jurist in a manslaughter trial). The jurors, all male, become acquainted with the personalities of each of their peers, with their personalities, in many ways, being defined by their professions.
Eleven of the jurors are quick to condemn the accused, a teenage boy, with no discussion.
Juror 8, however, has other ideas. He has deeply considered his verdict and has reasonable doubt. He grasps the mantle and takes on the onerous task, of turning the other jurors heads around.
Unlike the lawyer for the accused, Juror 8 presents questions that need to be answered, and is an impassioned advocate for reasoning out and testing all of the evidence.
Tonya Grelis brings together a tight production with a good creative team comprising set designer Murray Grelis, lighting designer Simon Dwyer, sound designer George Cartledge and costume designer Helen Kohlhagan.
The stand-out performances come with the two leading roles; Richard Drysdale reprises the role of Juror 8, the Architect, famously played by Henry Fonda in Sidney Lumet’s classic 1957 film. Enrico Babic plays the antagonist, the obnoxious, loud mouthed, aggro Messenger Service Owner Juror 3, reprising Lee J. Cobb, who is intent on seeing the teenager receive the death penalty.
The great supporting cast all give credible performances, comprising a veritable cross-section of 1950s American society:- Phillip Lye plays Juror 1, a high school football coach; Brett Joachim plays Juror 2 a bank teller; Scott Clare plays Juror 4, a Stock Broker; Ben Scales plays Juror 5, a hospital nurse; Jon Goodsell plays Juror 6, a painter; Luke Reeves plays Juror 7, a salesman; Tim Hunter plays Juror 9, Mr McCardle, a senior citizen; Tony Bates plays Juror 10, a car wash owner; Darrell Hoffman plays Juror 11, a watch maker; and Alex Cubis plays Juror 12, an advertising agent.
The dramatis personae is completed by Brent Sheridan off-stage in the role of the Judge, and James Graham is the Court Guard.
What comes out during the course of the play is how many of the jurors discriminate against the accused and two of the witnesses on so many grounds – race, age, gender, history, background, neighbourhood – and how issues in jurists’ private lives can cloud their judgment.
Recommended, EpicentreTheatre Company’s production of TWELVE ANGRY MEN, opened at the Zenith Theatre, on the corner of Railway and McIntosh streets, Chatswood on Friday 31 October and is running until Saturday 8th November,
Remaining performance are:- Sunday 2nd November at 5pm, Wednesday 5th November at 8pm, Thursday 6th November at 8pm, Friday 7th November at 8pm and Saturday 8th November at 8pm as well as a matinee at 2pm.