Twelve Angry Men
Twelve Angry Men is one of my favourite plays. I first encountered the play when a green, 17 year old deputy stage manager working on my first production. One thing that sticks in my mind, apart from the thrilling script, was the difficulty of casting thirteen actors strong enough to carry the suspense-filled plot. The thirteen characters, twelve jurors and one court official, never leave the stage throughout the 2 hour play. Finding that amount of actors able to pull of the strenuous performance is no mean feat.
This challenge was my greatest fear for the production at the Belgrade. If one of the actors performances was weak the whole production suffers irriparably. There is no play I can thinking of that needs a strong ensemble cast like Twelve Angry Man does. The performance at the Belgrade manages this and more. Every actor plays his role in the narrative, defining each very different character without resorting to stereotyping or ham.
Tom Conti takes on the central role of Juror #8, the mild mannered voice of reason made famous by Henry Fonda in the 1957 film. His calm measured performance is the understated powerhouse that drives this wordy play forwards.
Framing this out of the court court room court room drama was an excellent set. Setting aside the New York vista back drop, working taps and rain drenched windows, the beauty of the staging is in the jurors debating table. The large table and chairs were set on a revolve which moved non stop at an almost imperceptible pace throughout both acts. It completes a full 360 turn by the end of the play. The effect has to be seen to understand it’s beauty, but directing around a constantly moving set like that is a difficult task. A task that this production does with flair.
Watching a new version of a beloved classic is always nerve wracking, especially if it’s one that’s close to your heart. Twelve Angry Men does not disappoint on any level! If you can still get tickets snap them up. I’m very glad that I did.