Adam Zwar, creator of Wilfred and Lowdown, will direct a dramatic live reading of the classic film 12 Angry Men for the Wheeler Centre this month. We spoke to Adam in advance of the event about the appeal of 12 Angry Men, the challenges of making it with women as well as men, and why American accents get in the way.
12 Angry Men is a play about justice and the responsibilities of democracy, set in 1950s America. How relevant does it remain – and do you think it speaks to contemporary Australia?
The play appears to be about justice, but its really about human relationships. It’s about 12 people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds being put into a room and negotiating whether someone lives or dies. The themes are as relevant in Australia as anywhere else.
The characters in 12 Angry Men were, as the title implies, originally 12 men, each of them intended to represent a different archetype of the ordinary American. What made you decide to cast the play as men and women – and were there any challenges in making this transition?
That came from a discussion with The Wheeler Centre. We didn’t want it to be a man-fest. And there were characters in the play that didn’t have to be played by men.
How were the roles allocated to each character? What kind of factors played into your casting decisions?
We only require the actors for one night, so we had access to some pretty extraordinary names. When you see how well the characters in the script are written, it’s not hard to think of actors who could play them.
Have you adapted the original film script in any way, or is this a faithful adaptation?
We’re being faithful to it. But, hold onto your seats, we’re not using American accents. This is a universal story and American accents get in the way. We want the audience to see into the character’s heart, not to be scoring the actors’ American accents.
I hear that the idea of a performed script reading was originally yours. What appeals to you about that concept? And what kind of experience can the audience expect?
It’s not an original idea. The film critic, Leigh Paatsch, sent me a link to a similar thing they’re doing in LA. And I thought it would be fun to do here. So I pitched it to Michael Williams and he went on Randling and became famous and I didn’t hear from for eight months. And then he got back to me and said, ‘Let’s do it. You can start off with 12 Angry Men.’
Adam Zwar will direct a live reading of the 12 Angry Men film script, with a cast of talented Australian actors (both men and women), for the Wheeler Centre on Friday 14 December. 12 Angry People will be at the Athenaeum Theatre at 8.30pm. Bookings are open now.