Direction : Tathagata Chowdhuryx
Writer : Reginald Rose
Cast : Dhruv Mookerji, Shadaab Kamal, Janardhan Ghosh, Nandita Gangwal, Charu Gupta, Anurima Mitra, Zahid Hoosain, Apratim Chatterjee, Mohanty, Aaron, Bhagyashree, Shuvendu, Arush Sengupta and Shafique Khan

12 ANGRY JURORS Play Review

Saudamini Kalra

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Theatrecian from Kolkata presented its take on Reginald Rose's celebrated and often-adapted play TWELVE ANGRY MEN at the NCPA. Director Tathagata Chowdhury says that he has set the play in Bengal of the early 1960s with each of the 12 jurors representing different ages, classes, and gender roles of the time period. Like the original, the Indian adaptation too brought an interesting mix of motley characters on stage; their differences promising some interesting interactions. As the jurors begin to negotiate the verdict, we learn that the defendant, who has been accused of murder, belongs to some sort of group/sect of society that is perceived as violent and unruly. Unlike the original, in this version, the boy is not clearly said to be from the slums, but all we know that there is something about him, possibly his religion, that makes some of the jurors prejudiced and inclined to believe in his ability to murder his own father.
Among the jury members is a young Madam Foreman as the voice of authority, the dhoti-clad man from the Bengali Bhadralok as the wise-crack, an old wise man, a clever and a witty middle-aged Bangladeshi refugee. Theatrecian's version also included a Kathak dancer enacting the part of the water-cooler that the jurors frequently walk up to and a mime artist who appeared on stage whenever the sequence of events of the crime were narrated. The dancing water-cooler was performed by Bhagyashree Ghosh with much composure and focus, but still came across as an unnecessary, gimmicky distraction. The mime on the other hand proved interesting in providing a picture of the facts of the events and created a nice contrast to the more tense moments in the jury room. The mime artist's entries and exits, however, could have been polished and made more creative.

TWELVE ANGRY MEN requires an ensemble cast, and as it goes with ensemble casts, the flaws and strengths of each and every member can make or break the show. Unfortunately for this cast, the false notes overweighed the elements that worked. Many of the actors came across as inexperienced and amateurish
While Madame Foreman held her own in parts, through most of the play, she too could not really evoke the authority and variation in aggression that was required of her part. A few of the jurors who were playing older characters could not convey their ages. The limps were affected and the stagey-grey hair didn't help. Many of the actors need work with their dialogue delivery in terms of clarity and this is something that the director should really have spent time on since it greatly and frequently broke the tense atmosphere of the play.

Dhruv Mookerji as the first dissenter from the unanimous verdict of guilty did an excellent job as the fair and firm Juror 8, carrying the show almost singlehandedly in parts. The Bangladeshi refugee also managed to stay memorable in a small part and switched nicely between comic and grave. The adaptation, as a whole, was an interesting take on the original. But generous hamming and too-long pauses between dialogues slow down and drag the show.

*Saudamini Kalra is a student of theatre and occasionally a poet.

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