by Reginald Rose.

Richmond Theatre The Green TW9 1QJ To 2 May 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 8717651.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 April.

Terrific trial drama.
It started as a 1954 TV drama, following author Reginald Rose’s jury service. It’s best-known as Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film, with liberal Hollywood’s famous straight-as-a-die man Henry Fonda as the Juror who quietly refuses to endorse his fellows’ Guilty verdict on a 16-year old youth tried for of murdering his father, despite apparently overwhelming evidence. And for some years now it’s been a surprise hit as a stage play.

It ought to be lumberingly old-fashioned in its earnestness and emotional frankness. Yet, it’s also a court-room (or jury-room) drama, and they notably hold a grip. There’s just enough depth for the cast to allow glimpses of the sufferings and anger behind the loudest outbursts, and for interest in the quiet, puzzled consideration of others. It really is a microcosm of a – White, male – society.

The underlying pulse is set by Tom Conti, who brings his expert line in quiet irony to his Juror’s insistence on the principle of reasonable doubt. Around him, every other character rings true, in every detail, throughout the evening.

Though it’s never stated, it’s likely this all-White jury is deciding on the fate of a Black youth, as well as one from a sink estate. Rose’s achievement is a careful amalgam of plot tension and characterisation, Agatha Christie-like plot points bringing reassessments about the accused’s guilt, while social strains and prejudices emerge and temperamental sparks fly.

Plot revelations come when a social point’s ready to be made, disguising the contrivance and a tendency to the strategic placing of insights which are one man’s near monopoly, while such matters as the reliability of witnesses arise remarkably late in the long afternoon’s journey from sultry heat to the outburst of a thunderstorm.

Badly, or merely adequately done, these plot contrivances would be apparent. But, from Michael Pavelka’s huge, functional room, with its jury table revolving as imperceptibly as people’s minds shift round, to the detailed interplay of the fine cast marshalled by director Christopher Haydon, it’s a masterly staging, mixing furious outbursts and frustrated silences, personal agendas and the slow progress of truth winning over appearance and assumption.

Juror 1: Andrew Frame.
Juror 2: David Calvitto.
Juror 3: Andrew Lancel.
Juror 4: Robert Duncan.
Juror 5: Alexander Forsyth.
Juror 6: Mark Carter.
Juror 7: Sean Power.
Juror 8: Tom Conti.
Juror 9: Paul Beech.
11: Edward Halsted.
Juror 10: Denis Lill.
Juror 11: Edward Halsted.
Juror 12: Gareth David-Lloyd.
Guard: Jon Carver.

Director: Christopher Haydon.
Designer: Michael Pavelka.
Lighting: Mark Howett.
Sound: Dan Samson.
Associate director: Tim Welton.

2015-04-28 05:10:57

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