Review: Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House

Simple, tense drama – Twelve Angry Men. Photographs: Anton Belmonte Photography
15 Apr 2015 @ 4.32 pm
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Twelve Angry Men

Grand Opera House, York

Till Sat Apr 18 @ 7.30pm (2.30pm matinees Weds & Sat)


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Twelve Angry Men is one of those films that I think everyone should see; in fact I recently introduced my wife to it.

When we heard a version of it was coming to the stage of York’s Grand Opera House it seemed a no brainer: simple setting, no flashy effects needed, just 13 actors and a table (more or less).

The 1957 film version was based on a TV play of the same name, and virtually the same script has been carried over to this stage version. It is telling that on this production there is no writing credit other than for Reginald Rose, the original screenwriter.

Twelve Angry Men tells how a jury is tasked with deciding whether an ethically vague 16 year old killed his father. Eleven of the jurors instantly vote guilty, with only Juror Number 8 (here played by the legendary Tom Conti) holding out.

What follows is a master class of tension as our juror points out the flaws in the prosecution case.

The ‘excellent cast’ ramp up the drama
The ‘excellent cast’ ramp up the drama
The legend that is Tom Conti as Juror No 8
The legend that is Tom Conti as Juror No 8

Conti is restrained, allowing the other actors the big moments and flashy speeches. An excellent cast, including TV regulars Andrew Lancel (The Bill, Coronation Street), Robert Duncan (who for me will always be Drop The Dead Donkey’s hapless Gus) and Denis Lill (Only Fools And Horses, The Royal), bring one of the tightest scripts ever written to life and, a couple of dodgy New York accents aside, are uniformly excellent.

I thought one of the less famous faces in this production emerged the strongest – Sean Power as the loudmouth sports fan Juror Number 7 was a whirl of charisma.

Much will be made of Michael Pavelka’s set design, featuring a slowly rotating centrepiece, and the praise will be deserved. This innovation allowed the audience to feel a part of the room – the impression is that we are seeing all sides of the arguments.

This production is definitely one for the drama fan. After a long day at work I was gripped by the entire production, not once feeling the energy levels flagging.

Go see it.