‘Twelve Angry Men’ was justified.
In the eyes of the law, everyone deserves a fair trial. They all have the right to be seen as innocent until proven guilty, beyond the reasonable doubt of a jury. Though this appears straightforward, Ghostlight Theatre Co’s latest production of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ shows that sentiment is anything but.
Set on a hot day in a generic New York jury room in the 1960s, twelve jurors have to reach a verdict on a murder trial. In this case, a sixteen-year-old African American is accused of murdering his father. While the verdict seems cut and dry for eleven jurors, one jury member isn’t resolved in declaring this guilty verdict and consequently, sending this young man to his death without talking first. After wading through questionable evidence, jurors begin to doubt their original beliefs.
Set design by Greg Delchau and Kim Phillips cemented the blandness of a jury room, with mild colours and standard items one would find in such a place. This set was nice and simple, and allowed the action to be the main focus of the piece.
Costuming gave a level of class to each juror. Though all wore formal attire, the different colours and accessories subtly showed each personality within the room.
Lighting and sound design by Russell Jensen allowed the room to feel worn, with subtle touches like the light switches and lighting adding to the fatigue of the situation. While the consistent rain and bellowing thunder set a melancholy tone nicely.
Directing a piece so iconic is always difficult, but Susan O’Toole Cridland managed this production with magnificent precision. The blocking felt natural, the characters were all distinct, and the use of comedy kept the word-heavy play frantically fresh. O’Toole Cridland ensures that the audience feels like they are stuck in the room, alongside the jury members. This immersive nature of the show means audiences will have to deal with their own feelings and try to look at the situation impartially.
Performances by all twelve actors were exceptional. Each character had noticeable personality traits for the audience to pick apart.
The Foreman, played by David Murdoch, brilliantly heightened tension while trying to keep order in the room. Aether Beyond as Juror No. 2 was tremendously timid, and their characterisation showed their feelings of discomfort within the environment, which they tried not to get hurt by. Juror No. 3, played by Mark Blackmore, manifested a multitude of chaotic elements as a grieving, angry father who wanted justice.
As Juror No. 4, Lindi Milbourne calmly controlled the situation most of the time with a dominating composure, though delivered a punch when needed. Juror No. 5, played by Caelen Culpeper, guilted the room with their own prejudices as a man upset at the system, looking for an out. Juror No. 6, played by Greg Delchau, gave the audience levity as the working man who does not tolerate disrespect. Juror No. 7, Luke Lilley humoured the audience as a man who uses comedy as an icebreaker, yet, isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
As Juror No. 8, Jon Darbro masterfully managed a mammoth undertaking, playing a character that wanted to challenge the room. Darbro’s performance was a complex dive into a man trying to be impartial, trying to allow conversation, without letting his own personal feelings in, despite those feelings showing sometimes. Darbro expertly displayed the complexities of his character with a powerhouse performance.
Juror No. 9, played by John Stibbard, evoked sympathy superbly as an old man who isn’t afraid to speak up.
For Juror No. 10, played by Sandra Harman, the character rested uncomfortably as a repulsive racist. Harman sprinkled unnerving moments throughout that influenced disgust among the audience. This was not an easy role to do, but Harman did remarkably.
Juror No. 11, played by Amanda Burgess, boldly boasted the room as a European upset with what’s unfolding. And finally, Juror No. 12, played by Julia Cox, gloated with superiority as an advertising showman who takes great pride in subtly controlling the room.
With twelve actors constantly onstage, each actor kept in character and didn’t take focus away from the heavy story being told. This show is all about the performances, and each did an outstanding job.
It’s disheartening to think that prejudice still exists decades after this movie was first released. Now as a play adaptation, Ghostlight Theatre Co. has highlighted that though it still does, it’s up to each of us to hold each other accountable.
‘Twelve Angry Men’ performs until Saturday, 24 September 2022 at KSP Theatre Inc. For more information, visit the Ghostlight Theatre Co.’s Facebook Page.
Photography Credit Alex Grace Buzolic.