Theatrecian has taken a fancy to tried and tested murder drama in its last two productions. In Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder, the police nab the plotter of a botched murder and free his wife, who killed the would-be hitman in self-defence. In 12 Angry Women, the all-female version of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men, the jury releases the teenager accused of murdering his father. Curiously, apart from Knott’s Wait Until Dark, both authors never wrote any memorable plays after these stage hits, both cinematized into classic films by the great Hitchcock and Lumet respectively. Theatrecian’s director, Tathagata Chowdhury, had much to live up to.

Things went remarkably well with Dial M at first, the cast communicating the tension and the foreign context, but then they collectively pressed the auto-destruct button in the second half, riddled with missed cues, muffed lines and an amateurish denouement. Still, Dhruv Mookerji stood tall among the ruins as the polished but duplicitous Tony Wendice, complemented by Zara Sengupta as a nervous Margot, his wife. Zahid Hossain performed convincingly as the petty crook blackmailed into agreeing to kill her. Chowdhury himself suited the part of the ostensibly clueless inspector, but Aaron Targain did not fit the mould of Margot’s former lover. One must mention Katy Lai’s carefully designed drawing room.

In 12 Angry Women, Theatrecian gave high-school theatre students a chance to serve an apprenticeship, which they did with aplomb, except for rushing through their dialogue at breakneck speed, making their reasoning often unintelligible. The accompanying percussionist thought that this gave him leave to compete instead of support, so that in discussions about the train passing, his enthusiastic rail rhythms drowned the deliberations completely. The mime add-ons proved too literal, Suvendu Mukhopadhyay imitating a knife and depicting what one does in a bedroom or bathroom (in case we didn’t know).

Chowdhury attempted the mixed-cast 12 Angry Jurors five years ago, but in a quest to say something new, his editing compromised the ending with a hung jury, which left the accused facing a retrial that would probably go against him. He also omitted large chunks of rationale, especially the most important personal revelation: why Juror 3 insisted on a guilty verdict. While several jurors were left with few speeches to act with, the angriest (Juror 3) received appropriately enraged characterization from Hiteshi Ajmera, and the original holdout, Juror 8, cool and collected treatment from Ishani Priyadarshini.

(From The Telegraph, 23 July 2016)