Interview: 12 Angry Men Pass Judgement

12 Angry Men MBM 2016Matt Byrne Media. 27 Sep 2016

 

Holden Street theatres will morph into the jury room of a 1957 New York Court in October when Matt Byrne Media present their production of 12 Angry Men.

 

“It’s a jury room drama, written by a guy named Reginald Rose”, says actor David Grybowski who takes one of the pivotal roles in the production.

“The trial is of a young Puerto Rican, and he is accused of killing his father.”

 

The play follows the debates and arguments of the 12 men as they attempt to come to a unanimous decision about the young boy’s future. “It’s all in the jury room, and it is real time. The second act starts where the first act leaves off.” David explains.

 

The case appears relatively straight forward, but not everyone is convinced.

“Only one man says that he’s not guilty at the outset, and so the course of the play runs [such that] he presents possibilities that create reasonable doubt… hopefully the other jurors go along with that”, says David.

 

It is not an easy play for the performers either. “There are 12 guys on stage all the time” he continues. “The attention is going to be on 3 or 4 and the other 8 have to look like they’re still in the game… It is really dependent on the actors”

 

Matt Byrne is both directing and taking a key role in the show. “The guys are [all] building really great characters; there are 12 really distinct types of men in it.” David says.

“What the 12 men bring to the jury room – what creates the drama – is their reticence and prejudices, their views on life – they bring all their baggage”.

 

David explains that the text is really interesting and requires a lot of attention and focus. “Creating themes, and moods, and finding the right breaks, and the right crescendos is the key” he says.

 

David is juror number 8 in this production. “I play the protagonist, the Henry Fonda roll – it was also played by Jack Lemon in a TV version – I’m the one that votes not guilty from the outset” David continues, “Matt [Byrne] plays the major antagonist, juror number 3”.

 

It also raises some interesting moral dilemmas and asks the audience to challenge their initial perceptions. “…there is one point where my character says “I’m not asking you to accept that it happened, I’m just asking you to see that it is possible”" says David. “I found that bit fascinating. It [raises] a good point… about possibilities, about reasonable doubt. Could something else have happened? Is it reasonable to think that something else could have happened besides what the prosecutor said?”

 

During the show one of the characters states “You don’t have a monopoly on the truth” David says. “That’s the key thing in a jury room – if we knew the truth you wouldn’t need a jury… we are all just dealing with probabilities… and if probabilities are sufficient for reasonable doubt, you have to vote not guilty.”

 

“There are two antagonists who have a lot of baggage” he continues.

“Juror number 3’s issue is he’s had a violent falling out with his son, so he sees the fact that this boy has killed his father like his boy killing him… he takes it personally. Number 10 – the other major antagonist – is a racist.”

 

Juror number 10 is played by James Whitrow. “He can be so evil…” says David, “He’s got an amazing long stare that just penetrates right through you, and he is just filled with latent violence”

 

“There is an amazing two page racist speech that [makes you] just want to walk out of the room” David remarks, “It’s really powerful.”

 

James Black is also in the cast, and David and James have worked on stage together before.

“I played with him in Butterflies Are Free back in 1984 when he was 17 years old! He’s a really terrific actor.”

 

“Nathan Quadrio plays a sensitive fellow who came out of the slums. He has a major conflict with the racist, Juror 10.” David continues.

“John Sabine plays a quieter, sage role, and people listen to him when he speaks.”

 

Sam Davy’s character, juror number 12, is a Madison Avenue advertising guy.

“Sam is building a terrific character… he’s got that kind of smarmy, smart arse personality.” David says.

 

The show takes place in The Studio at Holden Street and Byrne has reset the seating. “There will be bleachers on two sides” David explains, “It’s like being in the jury room”.

“The audience are the two walls… but they are invited to sit on the other side after intermission”

 

Opening in around 2 weeks’ time, David feels good about how the show is progressing, “the train will pull into the station on time” he quips. “Overall I think [it] is a good play. It’s tense [and] interesting how the points are made, and then unmade in the discussion; how it bounces back and forth… it’s really interesting to see what people bring to make their decisions.”

 

“I’ve heard that the film is used in university courses about decision making, and negotiating, and how to deal with other people and get what you want in business.” David says.

 

There is an outcome to the show. It isn’t one of these production that’s leaves the audience with the hanging question about what happened. But in order to find out what happens you’ll have to go along.

 

The full production features David Grybowski as Juror No. 8, with Angus Smith as the Foreman, James McCluskey-Garcia as No. 2, Matt Byrne as No. 3, David Havilland as No. 4, Nathan Quadrio as No. 5, Russell Ford as No. 6, James Black as No. 7, John R. Sabine as No. 9, James Whitrow as No. 10, Neville Phillis as No. 11 and Sam Davy as No. 12

 

12 Angry Men runs at the Holden Street Theatres from October 12-15, 19-22 & 26-29 at 8 p.m. & October 22 & 29 at 2 p.m.

 

Paul Rodda

 

When: 12 to 29 Oct

Where: Holden Street Theatres

Bookings: mattbyrnemedia.com.au; holdenstreettheatres.com; 8225 8888

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