I have just had the great pleasure of being in my first play in 25 years. Way back before life as a barrister took over many of my waking moments, I used to love acting. But who had time when litigation can be so all consuming – and if there is one thing life at the Bar does not include, it is regular hours. So drama has taken a back seat (save for that provided by the ever changing and interesting parade of life I see in my practice – and family!).
One day in July I came back from Court to find an email advising that a play was going to be put on with a cast of barristers, just a few months hence, and calling for auditions. Rehearsals were on Sundays, and the play would be performed in the legal precinct, out of Court hours. It was do-able. On the spur of the moment, I replied. Which led to an audition. And which, to my delight, led to a part.
Two weeks ago, I was one of a cast of Victorian barristers performing the roles of the 12 jurors and one tipstaff in the classic Reginald Rose play 12 Angry Men. It was the first production put on in the Supreme Court of Victoria and it was part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
As the cast grappled with learning lines and work-shopping the best way to perform this play which has all the jurors on stage for the whole 90 minute play (the audience is privy to all the jurors’ deliberations as they decide if the man charged of murder is in fact guilty beyond reasonable doubt), we not only had a lot of fun but also got to know each other in a quite different way then would have been possible through our ‘normal’ legal lives. Before I started the play, I knew a few of the cast and production crew between a little and a lot – or not at all. Of those I knew, at one extreme, I am married to one cast member. At the other, one of the junior commercial barristers had been in a mediation I was mediator of; another had been a reader (baby barrister) on my floor many years ago. Many I had never met before, including recent members of the Bar, criminal barristers, and the judges’ associates and junior solicitors who directed or were in the production team. Close friendships have been formed and some mentoring relationships developed. I for one have a new appreciation of the diversity and strength of the Victorian Bar – and of some of the very talented, able junior lawyers getting started in our profession.
Yes, it was a busy time fitting in rehearsals and performances with work and normal life. But it was also stimulating, invigorating and very enjoyable. It was a great reminder of the need to keep other joys and passions going alongside our busy practices. We then go back to those practices and the people we work with and help, with fresh energy and insight.
The group of lawyers who have set up BottledSnail Productions have done so with the intent of reducing some of the depression and anxiety that working in the legal profession can engender, by promoting drama and musical outlets for lawyers (and it supports the Tristan Jepson foundation which works to counteract depression in the profession). It is a wonderful idea. I encourage anyone reading this who themselves has a budding inner actor or musician eager for an outlet to get involved. Law Revue auditions are coming up; there is an Orchestra and Choir being formed; I hear there is a Battle of the Bands to come. All great ways to get to know other lawyers – outside our adversarial system.
Reprise season in 2 weeks
Just in case anyone reading this now wishes they had seen the play – tickets have just been released for an extended season. 12 Angry Men will be on again, this time at the Council Chambers, Melbourne Town Hall on Tuesday 22, Wednesday 23, Thursday 24 and Saturday 26 October 2013 (at 8 pm).
The cast is –
- Samantha Marks SC – Forewoman
- Andrew Buckland – juror 2
- Kylie Weston-Scheuber – juror 3
- Angela O’Brien – juror 4
- David Kim – juror 5
- Danny Cole – juror 6
- Sam Tovey – juror 7
- Simon Marks SC – juror 8
- The Hon James Guest – juror 9
- Ashley Halphen – juror 10
- Loula Athanasopoulos – juror 11
- Rachel Ellyard – juror 12
- Samantha Dixon – tipstaff.
Tickets can be purchased online at <http://www.bottledsnail.com> (follow the link from the front page).
Some comments from the first season:
- It was my great privilege to attend the opening night, last night. The performance was phenomenal. I am extremely proud of you all and feel deeply honoured to have been invited to attend. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the performance. At times, the tension was so palpable you could cut the air with a knife.
- A great show…I have been raving to my colleagues about it this morning. When you have information on the new dates in the Town Hall can you give me as much advance notice as possible.
- We saw 12 Angry Men tonight. Absolutely terrific. I loved the Henry Fonda/Sidney Lumet version and thought it would be pretty big shoes. It was riveting. Immensely satisfying – didn’t need to be held in the courts, would have been just as terrific anywhere – for me, just a location bonus.