Play by Reginald Rose. The jury room of a New York Court of Law in 1957. One man is dead; the life of another is at stake. 12 jurors have murder on their minds and a life in their hands as they decide the fate of a young delinquent accused of killing his father. His life now hangs in the balance. Should he face the death sentence for murder? The Twelve jurors, all men, convene in the claustrophobic jury room of a New York court to decide. But having nearly reached a unanimous verdict of guilty, a single dissenting voice - 'Juror Number 8' - instigates an insightful, but emotionally charged, examination of the facts. Then, what appears to be an open and shut case soon becomes a dilemma for the twelve, as their prejudices and preconceived ideas about the accused, the trial and each other turn the tables every which way. Is there enough reasonable doubt to acquit? Can Juror Number 8 persuade his eleven fellow jurors to spare the life of the accused?
The playwright Reginald Rose wrote this play following his own jury service experience in New York: "ln 1954 I was called for jury duty in New York City. I had never been inside a courtroom before and I found myself in awe of the ritual, the rules, the solemnity of the proceedings and the responsibility I bore. The man on trial was charged with manslaughter; he had, with neither premeditation nor intent to kill, assaulted another man in front of many witnesses. Three days later the victim was dead. The facts of the case were clear and the jury was given a choice of three verdicts by the judge: Guilty of Manslaughter; Guilty of First Degree Assault; or Not Guilty. In the jury room we agreed immediately that the defendant was guilty. And the battle began. Was he guilty of manslaughter or assault? Should he serve 20 years in prison or only three to five years? We argued bitterly for eight high-decibel hours before we brought in a unanimous verdict of First Degree Assault, whereupon the judge told us what we were not allowed to know during the trial, that any conviction, since it would be the defendant's fourth felony conviction, would automatically carry a sentence of life imprisonment. The violent arguments in the jury room hadn't mattered at all. But I had participated in what clearly was a powerful situation on which to base a television play which became a film and then a play for the stage. I called it Twelve Angry Men." Originally seen as a television play in 1954, it was made into a film in 1957, and was then first presented on stage in 1958.
12 Angry Men - Original London West End Production 1964
Opened 9 July 1964, Closed Sat 15 August 1964 at the Queen's Theatre
Transferred 25 August 1964, Closed 10 October 1964 at the Lyric Theatre
The original cast featured Leo Genn and Walter Fitzgerald with John Bay, Peter Illing, Mark Kingston, Barry Lowe, Paul Maxwell, Olaf Pooley, Arnold Ridley, Grant Taylor, Robert Urquhart and Ken Wayne along with Eric Mason as 'the Guard' and James Dyrenforth as the voice of 'the Judge'. Directed by Margaret Webster with designs by Norman Smith. A hoped for transfer to a third theatre to continue the run unfortunately did not happen.
12 Angry Men - 1st West End Revival 1996
Previewed 11 April 1996, Opened 22 April 1996, Closed 27 July 1996 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)
The cast featured Kevin Whately, Timothy West, Tony Haygarth, Tim Healy and Peter Vaughan with Kevin Dignam, Robert East, Maurice Kaufmann, Alan MacNaughtan, Douglas McFerran, Stuart Rayner and Christopher Simon along with Joshua Losey as 'the Guard' and Eg Marshall as the voice of 'the Judge'. Directed by Harold Pinter with sets by Eileen Diss, costumes by Tom Rand, lighting by Mick Hughes and sound by Tom Lishman.
12 Angry Men - 2nd West End Revival 2013
Previewed 7 November 2013, Opened 11 November 2013, Closed 14 June 2014 at the Garrick Theatre
A major revival of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men in London starring Tom Conti, Robert Vaughn, Jeff Fahey and William Gaminara and directed by Christopher Haydon.
The cast from 31 March 2014 featured Tom Conti, Robert Vaughn, Jeff Fahey and William Gaminara with Paul Antony-Barber, David Calvitto, Robert Duncan, Christopher Ettridge, Andrew Frame, Edward Franklin, Sean Power, Luke Shaw along with Jon Carver as 'the Guard'. Directed by Christopher Haydon with designs by Michael Pavelka, lighting by Mark Howland and sound by Dan Hoole. Tom Conti's London theatre credits include They're Playing Our Song and Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell.
The original cast featured Martin Shaw, Jeff Fahey, Nick Moran and Robert Vaughn with Paul Antony-Barber, Robert Blythe, David Calvitto, Ed Franklin, Owen O'Neil, Miles Richardson, Jason Riddington, Luke Shaw, Martin Turner along with Jason Riddington as 'the Guard'.
When this production opened Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times explained that, "in Christopher Haydon's admirably deft revival, it proves as powerfully riveting as ever... it is intensely gripping and very moving in its depiction of men acquiring humane dignity through reason," adding that it featured "an excellent, precisely defined ensemble" while "Michael Pavelka's imperceptibly revolving set ingeniously alters the perspective, turning the table as the tables turn." In the Daily Express Simon Edge highlighted that "this tale of a jury room turnaround remains the classic expression of liberal humanity... gripping meditation on the difference between truth and knowability." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail hailed the "strong ensemble" and Dominic Maxwell in the Times noted the "terrific ensemble cast" who "make their roles dynamic and distinct as they debate the guilt of a 16-year-old accused of murdering his father with a knife," concluding that this "is a strong revival of an old-fashioned yet thoroughly engaging play." In the Daily Telegraph Jane Shilling wrote that "the ensemble portrays Fifties archetypes to perfection" while Christopher Haydon "infuses the drama's neat, almost sentimental ending with a complex resonance that lingers in the mind long after the last curtain call." Michael Billington in the Guardian described the "vivid impression of the way jurors allow their rooted prejudices and personal hang-ups to influence their verdict. The piece is also well directed by Christopher Haydon and shrewdly designed by Michael Pavelka." Holly Williams in the Independent said that "director Christopher Haydon guides the action sure-handedly, the actors roaming round the room, keeping things fluid" concluding that "with its skilful structure, Twelve Angry Man commands your attention."
"Reginald Rose's sturdy 1954 TV play - later a celebrated movie - was part of America's solemn healing after the McCarthy trials, a civics class on the responsibilities of democracy. It's satisfying but never surprising, especially as Christopher Haydon's decent production takes obvious choices - the liberals reason, the bigots bluster... Haydon can't match the film's claustrophobia... An impassive Martin Shaw leads the gravelly actors going basso-a-basso, but it's a frail Robert Vaughn, twinkling in his bow tie, who keeps your eye." The Sunday Times
"The strength of Twelve Angry Men is that all the jurors have such well-defined personalities, but it is Robert Vaughn's - the liberal-minded old soul who is afraid of no one - which comes across most vividly. Martin Shaw is the nominal star of this production - and he acquits himself well... Reginald Rose's cracking courtroom drama... has to be the classiest, most intelligent drama now playing in the West End." The Sunday Telegraph
"Martin Shaw has spent much of his career on stage and screen upholding justice. He's back laying down the law with characteristic low-key charisma in Christopher Haydon's superbly acted revival of jury-room drama TweIve Angry Men... Shaw plays... the one who plants the seeds of 'reasonable doubt' that the 16-year-old heading for the electric chair might not have stabbed his father. As the jurors sift through the meagre evidence, the table imperceptibly revolves, an ingenious reflection of their shifting perspectives. It's knife-edge stuff, unravelling in real time on a stifling New York day, with the fan in the room not working... Highly recommended." The Mail on Sunday
"Saddling up for this West End revival are director Christopher Haydon and a starry cast led by Martin Shaw. However, their commitment and energy can't quite disguise the creak of the old nag's bones... But the action feels fake, especially during the second-act storm with its driving rain and portentous claps of thunder. And the relentless, testosterone-steeped hectoring and wrangling become monotonous. This is a solid production, efficient but unexciting." The London Metro
Robert Vaughn is best known for his film credits which include The Magnificent Seven, The Towering Inferno and Bullitt as well as his Oscar-nominated performance in The City Jungle. His television credits include the 1960's series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the 1980s series The A-Team and the 2000s series The Hustle. Jeff Fahey has starred in a number of films including the title role in The Lawnmower Man opposite Pierce Brosnan, Roberto Rodriguez's Machete, and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse.
Twelve Angry Men in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 7 November 2013, opened on 11 November 2013 and closed on 14 June 2014.