12 Angry Men at the Theatre Hebertot
Is it still necessary to present this play by Reginald Rose ? Perhaps a short introduction remains interesting to return to what gave a masterpiece of the cinema of the 50s !
The playwright and writer Reginald Rose wrote in 1954 a play entitled Twelve Angry Men. Very much focused on controversy and debate, it doesn’t hesitate to attack racism, the social condition and the differences that mark the United States of America fifties. In the wake of this, in 1957, Sidney Lumet enlisted Henry Fonda in a poignant film adaptation ! Nominated for an Oscar the same year, he will not leave with a statuette.
However, it is in Germany that the film is crowned with a Golden Bear at the 1957 Berlinade.
The cinema has been able to put this now internationally known play in the spotlight. So what about going back to the fundamentals of theater ?
About 60 years later, the world has changed, France and the United States too. What gives this play in 2017 ? Can we modernize it ?
United States. 12 men, during the deliberation of a trial, have the responsibility of judging a young man accused of parricide. If for 11 of them his guilt is obvious, a juror will express doubts. But it takes unanimity to reach a verdict.
A life is in their hands. It's acquittal or the electric chair.
12 Angry Men in 2017…
Social fracture, racism, in spite of the gigantic advances that the Western world has known since the 50s (not very glorious in these matters), it is sad to see that nothing is lost in the discourse. The spectator does not lose any of the background of the problems raised about the environment, the social milieu and the family of the young man.
It should be noted that the young man who was “black American” in the film, becomes a “young man” without further distinction. An interesting adaptation effort that allows us to forget racism and focus on social problems.
So ? Modernization ? The text seems timeless in 2017, but with a new translation effort. Finally, when 12 men with very different temperaments discuss education, society, knife handling, weather, family, we forget very quickly that the play was written in the 50s.
but visually anchored in the past !
What is amazing is that visually, the play seems to take place in the past. The text no longer seems to be limited to be performed in a 2017 environment, but the gray tones, the large costumes almost of the period, make one imagine oneself more a few decades ago than today.
Too bad, it would have been superbly interesting to break the codes, to create a modern jury, even to include women in the play (if the dialogues allow it).
However, the whole thing does not lose its flavor. The twelve actors move with ease on a stage that is ultimately quite narrow for such a large number of people who are always in the same situation. The bare stage also forces to focus on these sometimes colorful characters.
With hindsight, we laugh at the dialogues or situations that are not really funny, we appreciate the logic of doubt that gradually settles in the group. Each of the actors personifies to perfection these men from different situations who have to give such an important verdict. There is no such thing as a bad actor in the gang. Special mention to the oldest and the two youngest !
Finally, during 1h20, we never get bored, even though we all know the end already 😉