QE’s actors feel the heat in a dramatic triumph – and with great American accents, too!

QE’s actors feel the heat in a dramatic triumph – and with great American accents, too!

This year’s School Play, originally set on the hottest July day in the USA in 1954 and staged at QE in one of the hottest UK Julys on record, proved a tour de force.

12 Angry Men was written by prolific playwright and TV dramatist Reginald Rose and turned into a critically acclaimed film by multi-award winning director Sidney Lumet. Although penned nearly 70 years ago, the themes of prejudice, race, status and justice still resonate strongly today.

Set in a jury room during a case where the death penalty looms, the play gives the cast the challenge of delivering compelling drama through tense and heated debate in a claustrophobic environment with inhibited movement – a challenge they pulled off with consummate dramatic skill, according to Crispin Bonham-Carter, Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement).

The play hinges on juror 8, played by Henry Fonda in the 1957 film and by Year 10’s Augie Bickers in the QE production. This character is the first to seek a non-guilty verdict and sets out to persuade the other jurors of the gravity of sending a young man to his death.

Staged ‘in the round’ the audience were drawn into the taut atmosphere around the deliberating table as Augie set about consensus-building amongst peers who had to confront their own preconceptions and prejudices.

“Augie was a picture of calm, as he gently unpicked the easy assumptions of the other jurors, while the Bhowmick brothers – Krishn and Koustuv, of Years 9 and 10 respectively – were exceptional in their portrayal of embittered, middle-aged jurors 3 and 10,” said Mr Bonham-Carter.

“This was real ensemble acting, with great American accents, too! It provided yet more proof, if proof were needed, that drama at QE is flourishing!” he added.

The play focuses on the personalities and prejudices of the jurors as much as on the details of the crime. Unusually for a court drama, the defendant, a young man accused of murdering his abusive father, is not one of the main characters,

The cast were unanimous in their enjoyment of exploring the play’s themes and the rehearsal process leading up to the performances.

Juror 7, Saim Khan, of Year 10, said: “Drama has been a uniquely amazing experience in that it has enabled me to work closely with people from different year groups. Whilst there have been many challenges such as learning lines, the length of the play and learning cues, it has been immensely rewarding.”

Rehaan Shaikh, of Year 8, who was juror 11, said: “I’ve really enjoyed being able to rehearse every week with people I’d never known prior to the play. It was great as we all were making progress while having lots of fun. The funniest part of rehearsals was just saying something wrong and everyone breaking character.”

And Year 9’s Suhaas Sabbella, who played juror 1, said: “We were given a lot of freedom to develop our characters and think about their personality traits and then perform around it.”

Mr Bonham-Carter added: “My special thanks go to the director, Mr Gavin Molloy, for his creativity, inspiration and support.”