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Garrick Theatre Twelve Angry Men is a powerful engaging play

Bill Kenwright Presents Twelve Angry Men at the Garrick TheatreTwelve Angry Men is a play by Reginald Rose, written in the 1950s as a teleplay and most well known by its 1957 movie adaptation starring Henry Fonda. The entirety of the play takes place in one room, where the 12 jurors are attempting to decide on a verdict for a 16 year old boy accused of murdering his own father. At first, the case seems clear cut and the majority of 11 want a guilty verdict. However the jury has been instructed that the verdict has to be unanimous, and that a guilty verdict is a mandatory death sentence. One of the jurors decides that he’s not satisfied the question of guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, and so it starts.

Martin Shaw heads up the cast as the juror who plants the first seeds of doubt, and he is supported by a great cast. It is an absolute privilege to watch such a talented and experienced collection of actors on stage. Of the 12 jurors, there is not one weak point that sticks out. Every single one of them portrays their character with truth and honesty, and their individual journeys are believable and compelling. Jeff Fahey in particular has a wonderful presence on stage, and even when he isn’t speaking you feel your gaze drawn towards him. And Robert Vaughn, while he doesn’t have that many lines, each one makes a strong impact, as his character puts others in their place when necessary. There’s an ease to the performance from the cast, and it’s very enjoyable to watch.

Twelve Angry Men is a powerful and engaging play, and should appeal to people who already know the story, and to those who are seeing it for the first time. While I worried the play might feel dated, the way it exposes misconceptions based on class and background – and as it is strongly applied, race – is as relevant now as it was then. When the juror loses control and starts spewing out his aggression and hate towards ‘that kind’ of people and how that’s all that matters to him in the case, is familiar. And when the penny finally drops for the most resistant juror, it’s with an aching sadness rather than triumph that the play comes to a close.

Racisms and classicism are still hot topics in our current time where the divide between rich and poor becomes wider and wider. The play gives no answer to the question of the defendant’s guilt and ends once the jurors leave to give their verdict. But if he did it or not is not the point. What matters is to challenge first impressions and dare to stand against the majority if your conscience tells you to do the right thing, but also be open to a new interpretation if the first understanding is flawed. Sometime the toughest thing to do is to admit you were wrong, and it’s the human nature on display that makes the play so interesting.

Review by Tori Jo Lau

Twelve Angry Men Trailer

Cast: Martin Shaw – Juror  8, Jeff Fahey – Juror 3, Nick Moran – Juror 7, Robert Vaughn – Juror 9, Luke Shaw – Foreman, David Calvitto –  Juror 2, Paul Antony-Barber – Juror 4, Ed Franklin – 5, Robert Blythe – 6, Miles Richardson – Juror 10, Martin Turner – Juror 11, Owen O’Neill – Juror 12, Jason Riddington – Guard.

Creative: Author Reginald Rose, Director Christopher Haydon, Designer Michael Pavelka, Lighting Mark Howland, Sound Dan Hoole.

Garrick Theatre
Monday – Saturday, 7.45pm
Thursday and Saturday, 3.00pm
Duration: 2hrs 20 minutes including one interval
Age Restrictions: Suitable for ages 12+

 

Wednesday 20th November 2013