Twelve Angry Men

12-ANGRY-MEN-POSTERThis is just a very quick post, aimed primarily at those of you in the UK, so apologies to everyone else.  I’ve just come in from seeing a production of Reginald Rose’s play Twelve Angry Men which is at the Birmingham Rep until the end of next week. It’s on a pre-West End tour and I know it’s also going to Malvern but I’m not sure where else it’s going to turn up.

If you get the chance to see it, either on tour or in London, where it’s at the Garrick, then don’t miss it.  I have been going to the theatre since I was two, so over sixty years, and I can safely say that even this early in its run this is already one of the most remarkable pieces of theatre I’ve seen.

If you don’t know the story then without giving too much away I can tell you that it takes place in a jury room in New York in the 1950s at the close of a trial for murder.  Eleven of the jurors are for a quick conviction but one, known only as Juror 8 and played in this production by Martin Shaw, thinks that they should at least test out the evidence in discussion.  He’s not saying that the accused is innocent, simply that they shouldn’t send a man to the electric chair without  some deliberate consideration. And from there the play, two hours in one set with only the characters we meet at the beginning, develops to its own electrifying conclusion.

I saw the Henry Fonda film when I was about twelve and I have never forgotten it, so clearly this is an exceptional piece of writing but this production is even finer than the film.  Shaw is brilliant, but almost better is Jeff Fahey playing Juror 3, a man who cannot leave his own family issues behind him when he comes into the jury room.  But then that is what the play is really about.  How is it possible for any of us to sit in judgement on another human without bringing our own situation and prejudices to bear?  How is it possible to be able to say that we do not have reasonable doubt?

Please, if you get the chance to see this don’t pass up on it.  And act now because the Rep was full this afternoon and I suspect that once it moves to London it will very quickly be playing to packed houses.  This is going into my list of all time great performances along with the National Theatre’s Ghetto, Derek Jacobi’s Cyrano de Bergerac and Antony Sher in Stoppard’s Travesties and I would hate for you to miss it because you didn’t know it was out there.

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18 thoughts on “Twelve Angry Men

  1. Thanks for the heads up, Alex – sounds wonderful. Unfortunately it’s not coming up this way, but it’s in London for quite a long run, so who knows. I saw a theatre production of it years ago in London directed by Pinter, if I recall correctly, and with an amazing cast – Kevin Whately as the Henry Fonda role, Timothy West, Peter Vaughan et al… Like you, one of my all-time theatrical highlights. A truly great play and the film makes it into my Top 5 too.

    1. I think the most remarkable thing about the film is that I saw it just once all those years ago and yet it’s still there in my memory as clear as if it were yesterday. There is something about a remarkable piece of storytelling that is indestructible.

  2. Don’t think it will reach the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. But, glad this play is being produced. It just may be even more relevant now, with our mass-driven, collective culture, yes, our social media acting as jury in the court of public opinion. Anyway, and since you said it’s better than the Henry Fonda classic. Great to hear. That is one impressive film.

    1. It is indeed, Arti. The very fact that I remember it so clearly fifty years on is proof of that. This is one of those occasions when I wish the commercial theatre would follow the practice of the subsidised companies and make their shows available by cine screening. Then everyone would get a chance to see it.

  3. Malvern is just slightly too far to make an evening of it for me. It sounds wonderful though, so I shall have to keep it in mind for a London outing nearer Christmas.

    1. It isn’t coming to Oxford then, Annabel? I couldn’t find a list of where it was touring to but thought it might be coming your way. Do try and get down to London, but book tickets soon. I suspect they will be very hard to come by.

  4. Thanks for heads up on this. I loved the old Henry Fonda film – I even referred to it in a previous blog post. It’ll be London for me – and I will look forward to it

    1. Oh yes, I really am very lucky living where I do. I get to see very fine theatre almost on a weekly basis. I spend more on theatre tickets than I do on books and that’s saying something, but I’ve been going since I was two and the need is in my blood.

  5. You have been so lucky. I tried to get tickets for Malvern but all that was left was the back row so am now looking to catch this in London (where no doubt the tickets will be double the price). I love the Fonda film version so will be very interested in how this stage version compares.

    1. That’s the problem with going to London for theatre these days, isn’t it? By the time you’ve added in the cost of travel you need to take a mortgage out.

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