Premiering in Birmingham before it transfers to London's West End for Christmas, this production of Twelve Angry Men pays tribute to the 1957 Academy Award Nominated film of the same name.
Following a three-day murder trial, the jury are sent to consider their verdict. Locked in a room, these 12 men from different backgrounds have the difficult job of deciphering the evidence to convict or free the accused. As the sentence if he is found guilty is death, the decision weighs hard on one man's mind. The question of reasonable doubt is raised, the debate begins and tensions rise.
Every juror (and the security guard) is wonderfully characterised and played with total conviction. The twitches, the mannerisms, the strides all so constant and natural you feel as if you are a fly on the wall of a real jurors debate. Each man has a history that fuels his personal verdict and an insight into a part of the case. Jeff Fahey's Juror 3 is a passionate and driven man, and while you inwardly cheer when he shoots himself in the foot, you feel for him when his motives are revealed. The contentious Juror 8 is played by Martin Shaw; he is calm and assured yet determined to see justice done. This a high calibre cast and it shows in enthralling performances.
This brilliantly crafted piece of theatre is a delight to watch. From the moment the lights go up on the jurors in the court room to the end when the final verdict is reached you are transported to 1950's New York and a slightly dilapidated jury room. Michael Pavelka's set captures the essence perfectly with a few key items of set dressing. In the middle of the room stands a large table and 12 chairs; during the performance this imperceptibly rotates. Is this a metaphor or an intriguing staging device allowing us to see all of the actors?
Overall, not only an evening's entertainment, this play is thought-provoking; should you take everything at face value or should you delve a little deeper? Are your first opinions correct?
This Birmingham Repertory Theatre production is outstanding. Make sure you get a chance to catch it before its West End transfer.
- Annette Nuttall