Twelve Angry Men review - November 2013

A well balanced and intelligent period drama.

There has been a flurry of new plays opening in the West End in the past few weeks, presumably to establish themselves in time for the festive holidays. I would say that Twelve Angry Men is the best of the bunch. It is a true hard hitting drama that will achieve what many productions fail to encourage these days; it will get the audience to think.

I went along to the show thoroughly expecting to be bored; 12 jury men arguing about “whodunit” in one room for two hours definitely didn't sound like my cup of tea. I love it when I am pleasantly surprised by a show, and this was certainly the case with Christopher Haydon’s production. Firstly, the use of the set was fantastic, which was perhaps the biggest surprise at all. The centre stage table was full of neat tricks that had me blinking twice! I don’t want to give the game away but it neatly reflected the passing of time as the jurors tried to determine whether a young boy should be sentenced to die. I was also a huge fan of the use of water on stage – a functioning tap and onstage rain had me thoroughly delighted and again the drips and the pitter patters worked to reinforce the rhythmic passing of time.

Yes, there were some pretty famous actors in the line up, but I was glad to see it wasn't a four man show. Don’t get me wrong, Martin Shaw (no stranger to a legal drama), Jeff Fahey, Miles Richardson and Robert Vaughn blew me away, but so did the other eight (Paul Anthony Barber, Robert Blythe, David Calvitto, Edward Franklin, Owen O’Neill, Jason Ridington, Luke Shaw, Martin Turner). Like in the production itself wherein the jurors are known solely by their numbers, this production did not glorify one particular actor as each played an essential cog in the narrative machine.

Some critics have said the show feels a touch out of date, but to me it was clear we were watching a period piece. That said, whilst the show is set in the 1950’s, many of the prejudice’s felt by the jurors still resonate in the modern world. It was extremely interesting indeed to watch the jurors confront their demons as logic attempts to prevail over discrimination.

Whilst the show is tense and emotionally draining, it is also logical, clever and entertaining; a balance many productions fail to meet. At 2hrs 20 minutes including interval, the show is the perfect length for its subject matter. I left feeling pleasurably surprised and intellectually stimulated. I would urge anyone who likes a good drama to see this show.

18 November 2013, Garrick Theatre