This 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.