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A CurtainUp London Review
Twelve Angry Men
Set in a claustrophobic city court room, Martin Shaw leads as Juror 8, who in the first poll is the only one to find the young boy from the ghetto accused of the murder of hid father, not guilty. His main protagonist is Juror 3 played by Jeff Fahey, an articulate man with a troubled past. The atmospheric set with its fly screens on the windows centres on a wooden table with a slow, almost imperceptible revolve. I was so gripped by the drama that I failed to notice the table moving and was left asking when did the table turn 180 degrees? The first debate about the individual knife is sealed when Juror 8 dramatically produces an identical knife.
Veteran actor Robert Vaughn, who will be 80 in a few days time. as Juror 9 is the next to be convinced of reasonable doubt as to the kid's innocence. I found the speeches of Martin Turner as Juror 11, a recent immigrant from Europe, especially moving as we share his perception of the American Dream. Miles Richardson in a tweed cap does little to conceal his prejudice towards the residents of the ghetto with racist remarks about "those people" although we are not completely sure whether he is referring to Hispanics or African Americans. It doesn't matter: his comments are about otherness, suspicion and fear of the unknown.
Juror 12 (Owen O'Neill)with his background in advertising, comes up with all manner of quaint expressions, showing the creative mind of a Madison Avenue jingle writer. Christopher Haydon's direction copes well with the problem of showing a cast seated at a table to all the audience, although there were moments when I couldn't see Juror 10 although I could hear him.
The scene where Juror 3 goes head to head with Juror 8 is most effective with some splendid acting between Jeff Fahey and Martin Shaw creating genuine dramatic tension. For a period piece, Twelve Angry Men delivers a classic drama full of impassioned debate.
For Elyse Sommer's review of the play in New York in 2004 go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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