As I stood outside the Garrick on a cold and dark evening, it was amazing to see how many people stopped to look at Twelve Angry Men’s signage on the front of the theatre. I overheard many discussing the 1957 film which famously starred Henry Fonda and was nominated for an Academy Award. Twelve Angry Men was originally a television play and has also been adapted for radio as well as film and, of course, stage.
This brand new production of Twelve Angry Men has been brought to the West End by Bill Kenwright. Reginald Rose's play is fascinating; the twelve main characters of all shapes and sizes are all very different and are performed with such depth by an outstanding cast. The play sees twelve jurors decide the fate of a young man accused of killing his father. At the start of the play the men take a vote which is almost unanimous, but as Twelve Angry Men progresses it isn’t long before the tables are turned and the men struggle to make up their minds.
The set stays the same throughout and the play is essentially twelve men arguing for a couple of hours. While this sounds like the recipe for a boring play, Christopher Haydon's terrific direction prevents Twelve Angry Men from becoming dull. The piece keeps moving at a good speed throughout with constant movement. There are very few static moments or parts which drag (although the running time could be slightly cut).
The arguments seem to go round and round in circles and at times it is unclear as to where the play is heading, which only adds to the tension. It’s a very interesting piece of theatre, and one which is very easy to become lost in.
Michael Pavelka's detailed design brings so much to the production. The set and simple special effects are hugely effective. There is not one weak cast member, Twelve Angry Men is an ensemble piece and the actors bounce off each other extremely well. Twelve Angry Men is nothing short of a gripping and thought provoking piece of theatre.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins
Reviewed on Tuesday 12th November 2013
Twelve Angry Men runs at the Garrick Theatre until Saturday 1st March 2014.