Twelve angry actors as theatre hires amateurs

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The Independent Culture

A planned stage version of classic courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men is living up to its name. Equity, the actor's union, has reacted furiously after learning the play's producers intend to hire a cast composed entirely of real-life lawyers, rather than professional actors.

The Tricycle Theatre, long seen as one of London's most daring stage companies, has advertised for solicitors and barristers to take the central roles in a play based on the 1957 Hollywood film starring Henry Fonda. Proceeds from ticket sales for the two-night run will be used to help finance a major new dramatisation of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

Artistic director Nicolas Kent justified the move stating the production is an "amateur" fund raiser.

But Equity has pointed out that it differs from other non-professional shows in that it is being staged under the auspices of the Tricycle itself, rather than by an amateur company invited in to use its facilities.

The use of non-actors by a professional company was termed "unprecedented", by a union source: "We were very concerned about these proposals and very surprised we weren't consulted in advance.

"This appears to have been a deliberate pitch to get people from another profession to take part in a show, in clearly not an amateur production."

Officially, the union is making more placatory noises. Its general secretary, Ian McGarry said: "Time to time, professional theatres choose to allow amateur drama groups to use their space. While we regret lack of employment for professional performers, we have no powers to prevent this.

"We look to the Tricycle for professional employment for our members, and we would be very concerned if there was any extension to this practice."

In a statement, Mr Kent, whose previous courtroom adaptations have included recreations of the Nuremberg trials and the Stephen Lawrence and Scott inquiries, said: "I spoke to Equity last week and we agreed the amateur production, on for two nights to raise funds for the Tricycle's work, was no problem."

Twelve Angry Men tells the story of how one juror in the murder trial of a young Spanish-American convinces his fellow jury members that the man on trial is innocent.

The new play, to be staged in December, will be directed by Jack Gold, whose television work includes Kavanagh QC and The Naked Civil Servant, the acclaimed biopic of late transvestite writer Quentin Crisp.

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