Courtroom drama given modern makeover
In bringing Twelve Angry Men to the 21st century, some of the style had to go.
And since a modern jury would more accurately reflect society, then so, too, went some of the men.
Four females will take on the roles of jurors in Reginald Rose’s classic courtroom drama directed by Owain Johnston.
The title, however, remains the same.
“I do a lot of musicals and comedies, but I’d much rather do a straight play,” said Liz Knight, who plays juror 11. “Mostly, I like who the character is and what it represents in the play.”
The 63-year-old moved to Bermuda from Philadelphia 14 years ago and has been involved with BMDS ever since. It’s her first time on the stage since breaking her hip in December 2015.
“It’s the ideal play because you sit a lot around a conference table,” she said. “I am a watchmaker, an immigrant. Technically, the play happens right after the Second World War but I updated it. I kind of planted myself in East Germany right before the wall comes down. The perspective is of someone that loves democracy.”
Her biggest challenge was mastering the German accent.
“I’ve sort of played it with an Eastern European accent, not specific to Germany [but] I don’t think I have to be absolutely German to make this part work.”
Stephen Notman plays juror three, his latest in a long line of villains.
“I’ve played a wide variety [of characters] — I’ve played the panto dame three times, I did a lot of comedy growing up. My first real villain role was as Shylock in the Merchant of Venice at university. I thought, I’ve got to get this right. When I was Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, I wanted to get the anguish across and have some sympathy for him.”
He played a paedophile serial killer in Frozen.
“He’d done these horrible things, but essentially, he was a victim. He was abused. I put juror three in that category because I see him as a sad person. I care about this man. He’s done some bad things, but he’s also a victim in a cycle of violence that has gone through generations. I will have failed if people walk away saying, that guy was a jerk.”
The 37-year-old lawyer, who teaches philosophy and religious studies at Bermuda College, has coveted the role since he first read Twelve Angry Men in English class at boarding school.
“He melded with my personality. He’s forceful. He believes in what he says. He’s maybe a bit of an A-type personality and I recognise those flaws and virtues — depending on one’s perspective,” he laughed.
“I play villains a lot and I like playing villains because I never think of them as villains.
“The best villains are people who think they’re in the right. They’re often motivated by noble motives, but they can often be led to tragic ends. I certainly feel for this character very much and when I read it as a kid I said I’d love to play this guy. I definitely think he’s just a wounded soul.”
The pair agreed that replacing men with women has changed the dynamic.
“Everyone has heard of the play and Twelve Angry People isn’t familiar,” Mr Notman laughed. “There is a scene where some violence is directed towards juror eight and now that juror eight is being played by a woman [Deborah Pharaoh-Williams], it’s just not the same. I don’t think juror three would attack a woman the way it’s written.”
The story has been propelled 75 years into the future. While they’ve kept hold of the “archaic” language, cultural references have been updated.
“These issues are very much happening now, so it works,” Ms Knight said.
• Twelve Angry Men runs March 9-11 and 16-18 at Daylesford Theatre. Tickets, $30, available at ptix.bm