Twelve Angry Men**** (Garrick Theatre, 18 November 2013)

Posted: November 19, 2013 in Theatre

This review was written at the invitation of OFFICIAL THEATRE –

photo-84There are many things that London’s West End is not so hot at, such as taking risks with new works or being at the vanguard of vibrant modern theatre. However, when it comes to staging a good old-fashioned drama such as this, there is nowhere in the World to beat it. So familiar is Sidney Lumet’s classic 1957 film, that it is difficult to approach this production with a fresh eye; yet, surprisingly, fore-knowledge of the plot does not impair enjoyment, as it enables us to focus more attention on the characters and the meticulous writing by Reginald Rose. Being set almost entirely in one room, the film played rather like a theatre piece, so it is not surprising that it was preceded by a television and stage play.

The setting is a Chicago jury room where the 12 men of the title are deciding the fate of a young black man charged with murder. Juror 8 (Martin Shaw) feels that the defence lawyer has been inadequate and refuses to accept that guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt, thereby instigating what is in effect a re-trial within the confines of the room. Juror 3 (Jeff Fahey) is his chief protagonist. The jurors, all male, all white, vary widely in age and social backgrounds and they all bring their own personal viewpoints and prejudices into the room. This is 1950s America and some of the views expressed are shocking today, but the play’s heart is clearly in tune with modern sensitivities.

Under the direction of Christopher Haydon, the ensemble acting is faultless and each one of the many dramatic high points in the play is perfectly pitched. Michael Pavelka’s set is also a magnificent recreation of an old style American government building and, very cleverly, the jury table is on a slow revolve throughout. Everything about this production has the mark of real class. And for film fans, there is the rare chance to see the last survivor of The Magnificent Seven (Robert Vaughn) in the flesh. A real treat.

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