Twelve Angry Men has become a quiet success: playing at the Garrick since late last year, it has received strong reviews, continually sells well, and has kept extending. I bought my ticket just before the most recent extension was announced: it was due to end in March, but was then extended for another three months. It’s unsurprising really, as the production, completely unflashy in nature and with a very simple set, boasts a gripping script and some fine acting.
Reginald Rose’s play was initially broadcast on television in 1954, before being adapted for the stage and, a couple of years later, as a movie starring Henry Fonda. The current stage version stars Tom Conti, Jeff Fahey, William Gaminara and Robert Vaughn (Conti replaces Martin Shaw who was still on when I saw it).
The plot is simple: a seemingly open-and-shut murder case results in eleven jurors voting ‘Guilty’, but there is one dissenter – and during the course of the play this one man manages to convince every other juror to vote ‘Not Guilty’ too. The action never leaves the room in which the jurors deliberate, but the play is so compelling that this doesn’t matter. I was gripped throughout and I could have easily managed without an interval, so engrossed was I.
In the pivotal role of ‘Juror 8′, the one man who is unconvinced of the accused’s guilt from the start, Martin Shaw gave an excellent performance, and I hope that Tom Conti is living up to the standard he set. I also liked Robert Vaughn as the older juror who proved more receptive to Shaw’s ideas than might have been supposed, and Jeff Fahey, who lent complexity to and invited sympathy with his character, a juror whose difficult relationship with his son coloured his response to the case in hand.
The set design was simple but very clever, with an almost imperceptible revolve (I didn’t notice it until the people next to me started to discuss it at the interval) showing how viewpoints and perceptions were changing. An excellent production – definitely worth catching before it leaves the West End.