Writer: Reginald Rose
Director: Christopher Haydon
Reviewer: Sheila Stratford
Set in the 1950s, Twelve Angry Men follows the deliberations of a jury at the trial of a delinquent 16 year old. He is being tried for the murder of his father. The play exposes the assumptions, prejudices and emotions of the jurists locked in a room in New York on a sweltering hot day. From what at first appears to be a clear cut case, the jurists become embroiled in arguments. They are faced with a dilemma – can they be sure, beyond all reasonable doubt that the teenager is guilty and should be sentenced to death?
After the experience of being a jurist in 1954, Reginald Rose was inspired to write Twelve Angry Men originally as a television play. In 1957 an Academy Award nominated film version of Twelve Angry Men was produced by and starred in by Henry Fonda.
In this theatre production Olivier Award winner, Tony Award winner and Oscar nominee Tom Conti plays the lead rôle of Juror Number 8. His portrayal of an unassuming character skilfully succeeds in enabling the other jurists to address their prejudices and assumptions as he helps them to unpick the evidence. Tom Conti certainly does not disappoint in his reputation as an excellent actor of his generation. Andrew Lancel as a hot headed juror with his own personal hang ups is superb in creating drama. Sean Power as a bumptious character more interested in getting to a baseball match than the fate of the teenager creates a highly believable character while Edward Halsted depicts an intelligent and considered immigrant, also totally convincing in his rôle. Denis Lill as Juror Number 10 is powerful, evoking emotions from the other jurors as well as the audience. All twelve men of the jury and even Jon Carver as the guard act their rôles successfully.
The play is well directed by Christopher Haydon, who together with designer Michael Pavelka, have created a very plausible setting and action. They permit each of the jurors to develop and depict their characters even in small actions, from attempting to turn the fan on or going for cups of water. Sound designer Dan Samson cleverly generates the atmosphere of a storm brewing and a noisy train passing, while still allowing everyone to be clearly heard.
The all-white, male jury is hard to imagine today, which dates the play. However, surprisingly, this does not distract from the difficult and often agonising rôle the jury has to face. Miscarriages of justice are carried out, but this is often due to new evidence coming to light or information being withheld. Twelve Angry Men illustrates the seriousness and responsibility that jurors experience and comes recommended.
Runs until: Saturday 11th April 2015
Photo Credit:Anton Belmonte Photography