Writer: Reginald Rose
Director: Christopher Haydon
Reviewer: Julia Taylor
The play, Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose was written after the writer had been a juror himself – originally created as a screenplay in 1954, a stage adaptation swiftly followed in 1955 and then an Oscar-nominated Hollywood film in 1957. We (the audience) are flies on the wall in a claustrophobic, hot and sticky New York jury room in 1954.
Henry Fonda played the lead rôle of Juryman Number 8 in the movie and it falls to Tom Conti to recreate it for Bill Kenwright productions. It is only Conti’s Juryman No 8 who realises how much hangs on the verdict.The life of a teenage Puerto Rican accused of murdering his father, depends on it. If found guilty, he would be sent to the electric chair. Conti always holds the audience’s attention after expressing his character’s views clearly with an immaculate New York accent.
When the vote is first taken, Conti’s No 8 is the only one to argue that the kid is not guilty. The other eleven middle aged white men are either too lazy or too racially biased to seriously consider the evidence. The supreme example of racism comes from Denis Lill’s Juror No.10. In a riveting performance he illustrates the small minds of white Americans at that time. With him in charge, the accused youth wouldn’t stand a chance.
One of the last to agree with the final verdict is Robert Duncan’s Juror No 4. a logical stock broker who is finally persuaded when the vision of a witness is disputed. Then there is Juror 3. Andrew Lancel, is spiteful, repulsive and resorts to fisticuffs in the tense atmosphere of the Jury Room.
Although there are glisters of humour, as stated in the title, the predominant emotion is anger. On press night, the start is delayed for half an hour due to ‘technical problems’. Whatever the cause, it certainly isn’t the dramatic thunderstorm with rain outside the window which is very well done.
We however are left to decide for ourselves whether the accused was really innocent.
Runs until 28 March 2015.