THE timeless courtroom classic Twelve Angry Men comes to Melville Theatre this May, twisting from an open-and-shut case to an edge-of-your-seat drama.
Adapted from the Reginald Rose teleplay by Sherman Sergel and directed by Vanessa Jensen, the play is set in a jury deliberation room on a sweltering hot New York evening in 1957 where 12 unnamed men must decide the fate of a young man accused of murder.
As the biases, personalities and tempers of the jury come together, each questions how he should vote, intensifying the uncomfortable nature of the room.
First created for television in 1954, Twelve Angry Men became a stage play the following year and then a feature film with Henry Fonda in 1957, scoring three Academy Award nominations.
“I’ve wanted to direct this play for years, after seeing an excellent production as part of the Perth International Arts Festival in 2004,” Jensen said.
“I studied the play at school and university because it’s considered a classic – it’s played in real time, which is unusual, and helps to create tension.
“But the main appeal is that it remains a powerful and compelling play as relevant today as it was in the 1950s, despite more than 50 years of progress, bias and prejudice still colouring legal proceedings all over the world.”
Jensen has a wealth of theatre experience behind her, after first appearing on stage as an eight-year-old and directing her first show at 14.
She wrote, directed, stage managed and acted in various shows at Curtin University’s Hayman Theatre over a four-year period and has staged several successful productions at the Old Mill and Melville Theatres, including The Venetian Twins, Emma, Three Tall Women, Pride and Prejudice, Away, Amadeus and her own award-winning script Jamie’s Chooks.
Away won Jensen the Constance Ord Award for directing at the 2010 Milly Awards and she also received a best director nomination at the annual Finley Awards for Amadeus in 2011.
Awards continued in 2013 when her production of Rabbit Hole at Melville Theatre won best play at the Finley Awards.
New challenges await with Twelve Angry Men – and the first was finding 13 strong male actors all available at the same time.
“Now I have the cast, I need to balance the conventions of theatre with the style of the play which requires the audience to be flies-on-the-wall during deliberations,” Jensen said.
“I also don’t want to re-create the famous Henry Fonda film – I haven’t seen it but it will be in the minds of many audience members.”
Twelve Angry Men plays at 8pm, May 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 with a 2pm matinee May 11. Tickets are $20, $15 concession – book on 9330 4565 or at www.meltheco.org.au/Bookings.html.
Melville Theatre is on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra.
TAM1: Juror 3 (Phil Barnett, front left) confronts Juror 8 (Gino Cataldo, front right) in front of other jurors during Twelve Angry Men.
TAM7: Juror 7 (Michael Dornan, right) tries to make a point to Juror 4 (Alan Kennedy) in Twelve Angry Men as Juror 11 (Willy Smeets, centre) looks on.
TAM9: Tensions run high in Twelve Angry Men as Juror 3 (Phil Barnett, front left) loses his patience with other jurors.
TAM3: Juror 6 (Will Gawned, left) and Juror 11 (Willy Smeets) face off in Twelve Angry Men at Melville Theatre.
The Melville Theatre Company was the brainchild of David J. Burton who, in 1982, called a meeting for interested people in the community to form a theatre company in the Melville area.
As a result, the Melville Theatre Company was born. The newly formed company's first production was the farce, Not Now Darling. With its second production, The Sound of Music, the young company won the Finley Award for the Best Production of the Year in Community Theatre. Since then, actors and directors have consistently featured in the list of awards at the annual State Drama Festival.
Initially, performances were in the Melville Civic Centre but, since 1987, the venue has been the Roy Edinger Centre, on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra.
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