Motyer-Fancy Theatre found guilty of another electrifying production
It wasn’t supposed to be the final production of the year, but the Motyer-Fancy Theatre’s production of 12 Angry Jurors sent the season out with a bang. With a spectacular set that brings the audience right into the tense discussion of whether or not a man should live or die for his crime, and amazing performances from all 12 of those jurors at varying degrees of anger, the Motyer-Fancy Theatre (MFT) has delivered a production that left audiences holding their breath until the very last second.
For this production, the Motyer-Fancy forwent its usual setup of end-on seating, choosing instead to do the show in alley format, with the audience on either side of the stage while the actors performed in between. The set was simple: a single exit on one side of the stage, a table in the middle and a wall with two windows on the other end. The audience made up the remaining walls, meaning that from the first moment the jurors walk into the jury room, you as an audience member are thrust into the discussion, almost feeling as though you need to chime in too.
12 Angry Jurors is a play about what happens when 12 people, all from different walks of life, come together to form a jury for a trial where a 19 year old is at risk of being sentenced to death for supposedly killing his father. At first, it seems that the group will be decidedly on the side of the boy being guilty. When a first vote is taken, the vote is split eleven to one. Thus begins 90 minutes of discussion about the case. Some of the jurors remain adamant in their standing, while some switch early on, then go back to their original decision. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire hour and a half, seeing the discussion go through the trial point by point as this jury decided whether or not another man should die.
This is all credit to the amazing cast, led by drama studies professor Glen Nichols. Nichols has cast students that long-time theatre-goers at Mount Allison will recognize, such as Emily O’Leary, Marissa Trott, Jarod Monk, Molly Dysart and Ben Maksym, while also introducing actors who haven’t been involved on stage with MFT before now, such as Tatiana Heggestad, Avalon Dinino, Kelsey McCammon, Faith Higgins, Alora Simon, Mark Saunders and Ryu Hiramoto. Regardless of whether this is their first show as actors with MFT or their last, each cast member knocked it out of the park. My personal favourites were Higgins as Juror 3 and O’Leary as Juror 10, who were the most consistent in terms of their rage – though oftentimes it was more about their fellow jurors not being on their side.
Nichols had a difficult job with this show, as it is a marathon. All the actors were on stage for the entire show, and often just sitting at a table and talking about a guilty verdict or a not-guilty verdict. Each actor, however, had a clear sense of who their character was, how they would react in a certain situation and if their perception of what the verdict should be would change or not. There are no flashy lighting tricks, no sound cues except at the very beginning of the play and Nichols took this in stride, as it made the dialogue even more impactful. Nichols has made the play seem wholly contemporary though it takes place in the mid-1960s – I can easily see discussions like this one happening in both a courtroom and online.
A special word must be given to costume designer Sue Rose, who managed to give each character a distinct feel while staying within the realm of the time period that the play takes place in. As soon as a character walked in, you knew who they were, which was important once the discussion truly got started.
The line that has stuck out to me the most since seeing the show on closing night has been “It takes a great deal of courage to stand alone.” MFT can rest assured that though this season has been oddly short-lived, 12 Angry Jurors was exactly the right show to play during this chaotic past week, even if they couldn’t have known how timely it would be when it was first announced.