EUREKA the Musical bows out of Her Majesty’s Theatre on Sunday 28 November but not without a fight. The show opened on October 3 as part of the Melbourne Festival with a vision towards an open-ended run. Audience reaction to the show has been positive but that has not translated into business at the box office. The producers of the show have been extremely generous in discounting tickets in order to make the show financially accessible to the public with limited success. Sadly, Eureka’s departure will mean that the only professional musical theatre activity in Melbourne for the foreseeable future will be � SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER� opening at the end of December at The Arts Centre State Theatre.
In contrast to the slow ticket sales for EUREKA , the independent production of � 12 ANGRY MEN � playing at The Athenaeum theatre is packing them in. This is a first class production of what was originally a live television play and then adapted for film in 1957. Coincidentally, the play is having its Broadway premiere at the same time as this Australian touring production currently in Melbourne. What makes this play timely and worthy of mention in this space is the unique quality of the writing, direction and performances by the twelve actors on stage for this 95 minute intermission-less play. Reginald Rose gives meaning to every word and action. There is humour, rage and outrage. Thanks to the strict television censorship rules of the 1950s there is not one curse word or swear word. This may same archaic and restrictive, but it is also refreshing to hear the English language used in the way it is intended. � 12 ANGRY MEN � became the prototype for future courtroom dramas. Mr. Rose followed-up � 12 ANGRY MEN � with the award winning courtroom television program � The Defenders � starring E.G. Marshall and inspired the current television success of � Law and Order� and the less well known � 100 Center Street� .
My only criticism about this Australian production and many other Australian productions of contemporary American dramas is the unnecessary need to play them with American accents. Born and bred in The Bronx I find the use of American accents by Australian actors often unnecessary and often distracting. I’m sure that Australians would cringe at the sound of a bad American imitation of an Australian accent on Broadway. The roles in � 12 ANGRY MEN � are shaped by the actor’s characterisation of the part not by their fake American accents. Two of the most convincing performances were given by the cast members of European extraction, because they didn’t fake an accent, they just acted as their character. The messages in � 12 ANGRY MEN � are universal. The impression I got watching this production was that the Australian audience was watching a group of Americans deal with the issues of justice, bigotry, and racial and ethnic tolerance. The fact is, those characters could have been Australians and we the audience need to recognise this and relate to them as Australians when watching this drama unfold. What made Shane Bourne’s final scene of the play so powerful was that he just let go and acted the part. His accent was not an issue. Compliments must go to the entire cast for an outstanding evening of theatre in Melbourne.
�12 ANGRY MEN� : November 16 –December 4, 2004 – The Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne Australia.
By Reginald Rose
Directed by Guy Masterson
Produced by Arts Projects Australia and Adrian Bohm; designer, Katy Tuxford; costume designer, Dagmar Morell ,
WITH (in juror order): Rob Meldrum, George Kapiniaris, Shane Bourne, Peter Phelps,Nicholas Papademetriou, Peter Flett, Aaron Blabey, Marcus Graham, Henri Szeps,Richard Piper, Alex Menglet and Russell Fletcher.
� Henry Sachwald 2004