Stage Nomad productions first appeared on the theater scene back in the year 2016 with their excellent play Court martial. The play dealt with the racism and classism within the military ranks and featured a stellar cast. Once again similar themes have been touched upon in the newest play ‘Mulzim ya mujrim’ which is being performed at Karachi arts council from 14th to 30th of July. The play is based on the classic Hollywood movie ’12 Angry Men’ and revolves around a jury of 12 people from different backgrounds, who have to determine the guilt or innocence of a young man, from an impoverished background, who has been accused of murdering his own father.
What follows next is 95 minutes of riveting drama whereby a single woman tries to convince the rest of the jury members regarding the existence of reasonable doubt that prevents her from declaring the convict guilty. It is important to note that in ‘12 angry men’ all the jury members were male. The change of sexes in the case of two jury members works well and also helps in highlighting the sexism within the Pakistani society. None of the characters have any names and are simply referred to by their designated number.
As it was mentioned previously, all the characters in the play hail from different backgrounds. The play tries to give the audience an insight into the lives of all of these characters. There is the cool and calculating stockbroker, a bitter old man who has had a falling out with his son, a garage owner who is a bigot and a tired old woman along with several others. All of these characters are given the chance to shine.
A notable difference between this play and ‘Court martial’ is the humor. While ‘court martial’ had its moments, it was an intense experience. ‘Mulzim ya mujrim’ on the other hand, had moments which were outright funny. Majority of these moments came courtesy jury member number 7, an individual who was more concerned about missing out the latest movie rather than giving a fair and an honest judgement. The play touches upon the personal prejudices that affect an individual’s capacity to make objective and rational decisions. Throughout the play, the audience is constantly reminded that the accused is a slum dweller and plays with the perceptions that people generally have regarding such people. It is a fact that we reside in a classist society and the play does a fairly good job of conveying that point.
Having said that there are certain issues that hinder the play from becoming a classic. The play has various moments where the jurors get in each other’s faces and while some of them are extremely well acted, the others are not so subtle. They are actually quite ridiculous and leave the audiences wondering if it was even necessary in the first place. The play also suffers from an inconsistent tone with an intense scene followed by a hilarious one. It also needs to be noted that 12 Angry men was a movie released in the 1950s and was very much a product of its time and therefore modern viewers might not find a play within a single setting as riveting.
The performers in the play give all that they have got and do justice to their roles. The direction and the art design of the stage were brilliant and evoked the feeling of an actual jury room. Overall the play was fairly enjoyable. The theatre is an art form that rarely ever gets the spotlight that it truly deserves but such productions always offer the viewers an insight into the human condition and need to be given the kind of support that they truly deserve.
Overall rating: 3.5/5
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