12 ANGRY MEN: Reginald Rose
Birmingham Rep in Association with Bill Kenwright
Runs: One interval, Till March 14
Birmingham Rep; Theatre Royal, Norwich; Malvern; Garrick, London – 7.11 to 01.03
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 09 10 13, Birmingham Rep
A terrific theatre event.
12 ANGRY MEN is a joy of a performance to experience. It has all the ingredients you crave for in the theatre – drama, dialogue that explodes like fireworks, consummate acting.
Twelve men – a jury – enter a jury room to decide their verdict; the accused (we learn, though never meet) is a 16 year old black lad from very poor circumstances. He is accused of stabbing his father; he is charged with murder, a guilty verdict is mandatory execution (electric chair.) The entire action of the play (a little over 2 hours) is the jury’s deliberations.
Although known to us from the 1957 Lumet film, the action is superbly successful in the acting space because the debate is live. Real flesh and blood men battle through their arguments. Nature and nurture underpin the discussions and we are struck at how contemporary they sound; we are frequently pulled up short by them. The need for the characters to understand ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ creates much of the tension; the bigotry of some of the characters is shocking and passionately portrayed. A dark humour emerges at times from this; but it is a humour, chillingly, built on recognition.
This is a strong ensemble performance of high-quality acting. Martin Shaw, Juror 8, who leads the opposition to the guilty verdict is outstanding presenting a quiet authority that always grabs your attention. It’s a particular delight to see Robert Vaughn here on-stage, his Juror 9 is totally unassuming but as equally unmissable.
The whole is orchestrated with skill by Christopher Haydon; great waves of emotion sweep into the auditorium holding our attention.
Foreman: Luke Shaw
Juror 2: David Calvitto
Juror 3: Jeff Fahey
Juror 4: Paul Antony-Barber
Juror 5: Edward Franklin
Juror 6: Robert Blythe
Juror 7: Nick Moran
Juror 8: Martin Shaw
Juror 9: Robert Vaughn
Juror 10: Miles Riochardson
Juror 11: Martin Turner
Juror 12 Owen O’Neill
Guard: Jason Riddington
Director: Christopher Haydon
Designer: Michael Pavelka
Associate Designer: David Harris
Lighting Designer: Mark Howland
Costume Supervisor: Jan Bench
Assistant Director: Erin Gilly
Dialect Coach: Mary Howland
Fight Director: Terry King