The Power of Persuasion

Twelve Angry Men

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*****

TO BE fair, a jury is always a good premise for drama; 12 disparate individuals all thrown together in one room - perfect template for some verbal crossfire and simmering tensions.

Reginald Rose's story of an all-male jury trying to reach a verdict, started life as a 1954 television play (Rose based it on his own experience as a juror on a manslaughter trial). When Henry Fonda and director Sidney Lumet took an interest, the result was ajuror 8 hugely successful movie that catapulted the story to a wider audience.

Stage adaptations were inevitable and often equally powerful. One set, a large table (of which, more later) and 12 characters drawn from different sides of life. It could have been written for the stage.

This version started life down the road at Birmingham Rep before going down a storm in the West End. Jason Merrells takes over from Tom Conti - certainly no like for like casting swap but an effective one nonetheless.

Juror No 8, played by Jason Merrells, the only juror not to rush to judgment

  Merrells brings a studious, calm quality to the independent thinker that is Juror 8. While others are quick to judge, this juror pleads for less haste and more open minds as the men struggle to reach a unanimous decision.

Andrew Lancel excels as the deeply inflexible Juror 3. An instantly recognisable and strongly drawn character - there is usually someone like him in any group. Excitable, weak and insecure - Lancel nails him perfectly.

Denis Lil booms his way into proceedings as Juror 10. Rude, racist and spoiling for a fight, there is little to like about the character. There is a lot more to like about Lil's portrayal.

This is very much an ensemble piece though. The writing gives everyone a chance to shine and, bar none, they take the opportunity.

Michael Pavelka's design is suitably stark whilst Mark Howett' s lighting captures a stifling, clammy summer day to perfection.

This is a gripping piece of drama, beautifully executed and powerfully told. It demands your attention from the very start and never loses pace or momentum. It is pure and engaging theatre that deserves to be seen.

One more thing. The table. Keep an eye on it. Wooden acting at its finest.

Twelve Angry Men, directed by Christopher Haydon, runs to Satuday, 23 before continuing on tour.

Tom Roberts

18-05-15 

To see where it all started her is the original CBS Studio One episode from 1954 from  The Internet Archive

 

Second judgment

****

IT seems and open and shut case when the jury in a murder trial return to their room to decide the fate of a 16-year-old New York delinquent accused of murdering his father.

Just a matter of raise your hands for a guilty verdict and head for home or the nearest ball game, but only eleven of the all-male jurors agree in Reginald Rose’s gripping courtroom drama.

Juror No. 8 is unsure despite what juror 3seems damning evidence, and his stance causes some angry clashes while revealing personality defects and blatant prejudices affecting some of the men who at first appear quite prepared to send the teenager to the electric chair.

Jason Merrells gives a fine performance as the only juror who spots apparent flaws in the prosecution evidence and stands his ground in the face of bullying, disbelief and even a threat of violence as tempers become frayed.

Juror No 3, played by Andrew Lancel, perhaps the angriest of the 12

Gradually his calm approach and reasoned argument begins to affect some of the other men, but he finds an aggressive foe in Juror No. 3, superbly played by Andrew Lancel, and it leads to an intriguing battle of wits and patience.

Television writer Reginald Rose penned the play after serving on a jury in 1954, and his work resulted in the 1957 film starring Henry Fonda.

It is now a very enjoyable play, directed by Christopher Haydon, but you are left wondering how an American defence lawyer could miss some of the pretty obvious flaws in the prosecution evidence in the first place.

The set for the jury room is excellent, the long jury table on a round section of the stage slowly turns full circle…but can the audience spot the gradual movement? The courtroom battle continues until 23.05.15

Paul Marston

18-05-15

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