Confession time: I’ve never seen Twelve Angry Men staged, or the movie with Henry Fonda. I know, I know: I just hadn’t got to it yet. But this meant that when I took my seat in the gorgeous Richmond Theatre I didn’t know what was coming.
Set in 1950s Manhattan, in a hot locked room, twelve jurymen must decide if an accused boy is guilty of murder. If found guilty the sixteen-year-old defendant, from the wrong side of the tracks, will be executed by electric chair. Immediately Tom Conti, who plays Juror 8, is marked out by his (at first physical) distance to the others and by his lone vote of not guilty. The only thing standing between the boy and death is Juror 8. And so begins an intense re-examining of the evidence, as in turn each Juror confronts their own doubts, prejudices and beliefs.
This is a fight for survival and justice, the set holding the men in a claustrophobic embrace as thunder rolls overhead and it grows dark as the rain comes. The table the men sit around slowly revolves as they debate ever closer to the deadline they’ve imposed: the tables literally turn. The outstanding cast make light work of the humour, the emotion and the high stakes. Andrew Lancel as Juror 3 embodying the repressed anger and pain recognisable in the posturing of many a bar bully. Squaring up to Tom Conti’s considered, thoughtful Juror 8 the two seem destined to forever be opposed. This is a classic play delivered with panache and conviction, which left me on the edge of my seat till the end. A guaranteed good night out.
Twelve Angry Men is on at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday 2nd May, and will then be touring: full details and dates here.
You can read about what I will and what I won’t review here.