Theatre Review: 12 Angry Men

An outstanding cast, skilful direction and an unusual setting all come together to provide Adelaide audiences with the opportunity to see this classic court-room drama.

Presented by: Matt Byrne Media 
Reviewed 12 October 2016

An outstanding cast, skilful direction and an unusually clever setting all come together to provide Adelaide audiences with the opportunity to take in a memorable performance of this 1950’s classic and its “table-stabbing” tensions.

It seems like an open-and-shut case; a young Puerto Rican boy from the “slums” has stabbed and killed his drunken, abusive father. The old man downstairs heard them arguing and the son yell, “I’m going to kill you!” followed by the thump of his body hitting the floor; the lady across the el-train tracks saw the boy stab his father through her window, and the accused had only recently bought the uniquely ornate knife that was found in his father’s chest. So he’s guilty, right?

Eleven out of 12 jurors would agree with you, but Juror No.8 isn’t convinced. Is this case as straight-forward as it seems? As the hours pass, not only does he throw doubt into the minds of those in the Jury room, but the audience itself begins to question the guilt of the accused 16 year old boy.

Are all of them “Angry Men”? Certainly some are angrier than others, but in the tensions of the jury room all of them experience anger at some stage. The entire cast is excellent and each actor brings to life the diverse characteristics of this randomly mixed jury. Some are shy, others morally ambiguous, and some are fired by hidden passions and prejudices that often blaze to the surface in explosive moments of anger and confrontation.

Within the high standard of the whole cast, exceptional performances came from: David Grybowski as the impassioned Juror No.8 who persuasively captures the moral integrity and courage of his “Atticus Finch” like character; James Whitrow was totally convincing as the threatening, morally bankrupt and disruptive Juror No.10, whose main monologue is a moment of brilliance in the play. Both James Black and John R Sabine beautifully portray their distinctive characters in the flavour of the original 1950’s film version. Director Matt Byrne excelled as Juror No.3, the threatening, bludgeoning, explosive antagonist throughout the play whose final monologue is the emotional climax that leaves the audience spellbound and exhausted.

The set itself is wonderfully simple; a single, uninspiringly bland jury room with the audience split onto two different sides of the long jurors table cutting through the middle. In this intimately small theatre the audience feels like it is part of the tense, life-altering discussion of the jury.

If there are faults, they are minor; the performance seems a little slow to begin with and, when bordering on three hours, seems a tad long. Also some of the shouting disagreements could occasionally have been moderated.

Overall Matt Byrne’s production of 12 Angry Men has done justice to the high quality of the script and the original classic film version of 1957. It is well worth experiencing the emotional and thought provoking journey it takes you on, so come on into the jury room.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Twitter: @Georgie_xox

Venue: Holden Street Theatres, 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh
Season: 12 – 29 October
Duration: 2 hours 45 minutes (20 minute intermission)
Tickets: $25 – $30


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