Truth in the closet
Akshara’s interpretation of 12 Angry Men emphasised the need for reason at a time of screaming polarities, says Abheet Gupta
Imagine being locked in a room with several other people to decide the fate of a man’s life; how tense the milieu would be if you were a juror tasked with the dispensation of that valuable commodity called justice and made responsible for his future?
This is what the play, 12 Angry Men, performed at Akshara Theatre on Saturday, premised itself on, raising questions in a context where a balanced view finds it difficult to make itself heard, torn between extreme polarities.
A boy, who had supposedly killed his father with a knife, was sentenced to death by the court on the basis of circumstantial evidence and then it was up to the jury of 12 members to decide whether the boy was guilty or not. The decision made by the jury was to be unanimous which meant they had to convince each other to arrive at a decision.
During preliminary voting, everybody voted for the guilty verdict, except one juror. Now his task was to either convince others to change their vote or get convinced himself. After hours of discussion and considering the facts over and over again, everybody began to develop a reasonable doubt and they all revised their final verdict to “not guilty.”
One of the best things about the play was that all the 12 characters had layers in their personality which were peeled off at twists and turns, revealing who actually each of them was underneath. The play also displayed that those who have the courage to stand strong with their opinions, even when the masses want them to accept what they think is right, are rare. Such people don’t just stand true to their opinions but also convince others to speak up if they have similar doubts in their minds. The play suggests that even facts can be overlooked by some ignorant people who simply choose to believe the picture as it appears.
The play, originally written in 1954 by Reginald Rose, has been adapted into several films and radio programmes. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it is relatable in every context. Second, it harps on the need for rational thinking as despite being told to base their decision solely on the evidence, jurors end up drawing on their personal knowledge and experiences. One of the jurors even produces a duplicate knife similar to the one used by the defendant, to harp on the idea of planted evidence. Then there is a class bias in the very process of persuasion.
It is rightly said that “you cannot judge a man by his coat”; a person should try to look beyond what is obvious. Also, ignorant people sometimes change or mould the facts according to their perception of the event that took place.
The adaptation of the play by Akshara theatre had its own twist. Everyone was able to form a bond with every single character despite a small time-frame of 65 minutes. Every actor compressed the complexities with tautness and had a consistency of pitch that had the audience spellbound.
Also, unlike other adaptations of the play, this one had a strong element of humour in it, which kept the audience well-entertained and invested. Compliments, therefore, are in order for the actor playing Juror #7.
Most of the actors presented a refined set of skills, especially when they displayed anger or irritation. Juror #3 wove in anger, pain and sadness in his final few lines that were not screamers but potent. The lighting and sound effects enhanced the overall impact of tension and suspense.
“It is the first play directed by me and it took hard work of around three months to create it. The play is beyond just the theme of serving justice, it is about the evolution of every character as they pave the way for justice,” said Vikalp Mudgal, the director, on his individual interpretation.
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