Top drawer performances ensure that Dramsoc’s 12 Angry Men is superior to the average adaptation, writes Reidin Vaughan.
12 ANGRY MEN is difficult to present to an audience’s satisfaction. Success of this play is determined by the quality of the actors and the vision of its director. Luckily for Dramsoc, they are well furnished with both. Directed by Elizabeth Chappel and James McNulty, this production is of the highest calibre imaginable for a student production.
The basic plot revolves around a jury of twelve men deciding the fate of a man accused of murder. Aware that they have only two choices – guilty with a mandatory punishment of death, or not guilty, they must come to a unanimous decision.
The main focus of attention is on juror number eight, who stands alone against the other eleven men. During the course of the two hours, juror number eight must convince his fellow jurymen of his view of the case.
Intertwined with this main plot are various other subplots that concentrate on the emotions and motivations of the twelve jurymen. The play addresses racism, culture and class differences into a bittersweet portrayal of ordinary men and the responsibility on their shoulders.
However, it can potentially be difficult to identify with characters that are nameless. In 12 Angry Men, each of the jurors is reduced down to a number, dehumanising them for the purpose of implementing justice. Yet the actors of Dramsoc manage to bring these nameless people to life.
It is true to say that not every character was as realistic as possible and many in fact were stereotypes of contemporaneous American society. Nevertheless, these stereotypes are important to the ultimate evolvement of the play’s narrative arc. In particular, the overcoming of personal experience held by juror number three in order to let justice be served is pivotal.
The drama and intensity of 12 Angry Men is heightened by the fact that all of the action takes place in a single room. In addition, the use of a bathroom is cleverly thought out by the director. This room is divided from the main space on stage and is used to offer the audience insight into key character’s thoughts and emotions while allowing the narrative to drive on.
Another technique used by the director was the distinguishing of the ‘Devil’s Advocate’, juror number eight, from the rest of the jurymen. Stephen Lowry, who played him, was dressed in a light coloured suit that stood out among the dark and dismal attires of the mass of other jurymen.
An effort to ensure that all the actors had believable and sustained American accents throughout the play was a credit to the directors. There were a few cast members who slipped in this attempt, but overall it proved effective.