[20040066] 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men

Guy Masterton / Assembly Theatre @ Scott Theatre

3:00pm, Sat 6 Mar 2004

Score: 9

Short Review: Compelling theatre

It appeared to be an open-and-shut case: a 16 year old boy on trial for the murder of his father. One eyewitness caught him in the act; another places him at the scene. Psychologists taint the boy as “the murdering type”. An easy day at the office for the jury, surely.

Yet Juror 08 – wonderfully played by Owen O’Neill – is unconvinced by the evidence, though not exactly sure why. To the protestations of the other jurors, he refuses to commit to a guilty verdict – he just wants to discuss the case a little more before effectively sentencing a boy to death. So begins the to-ing and fro-ing of this jury room battle, as evidence is called into question, egos are inflamed, and twelve men – each with their own perceptions and prejudices – struggle to converge to a consensus.

This was a masterfully portrayed piece of theatre; even with nowt but a table, twelve chairs, and a water cooler for props, the script crackles along at an electric pace. The timing of the twelve men is impeccable, the tense dialogue occassionally punctuated by spots of humour, as the twelve men form alliances, battle preconceived notions, and generally… get very angry.

Except for Juror 08, of course – the “weakling” who stood alone at the beginning. Strangely enough, it’s the biggest bully of the jury – Stephen Frost’s Juror 03 – who stands alone at the end. A morality tale, perhaps? Who cares, it was grand theatre, even if the direction of the plot was usually telegraphed well in advance. In fact, the only negative of the performance from my point of view was Ian Coppinger’s overly Rick Moranis-like Juror 02. But that’s just me being a big fusspot – this is well worth seeing, and certainly another big tick for the Festival.

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