EVER since watching the classic 1957 film 12 Angry Men as a child I have been waiting for the call to serve my Queen and Country as a juror.
Sadly my number has never come up so I was not going to miss a star studded reprise of 12 Angry Men at The Birmingham Rep as it as close as I will ever get to arguing with 11 of my peers.
Reginald Rose’s story is brilliantly simple, 12 men have to decide the fate of a 16-year-old defendant who will get the electric chair if they find him guilty of killing his father.
Martin Shaw, who is no stranger to the justice system after his successful television stint as bodice ripping Judge John Deed, returned to his home town to lead the cast in Henry Fonda’s role in the classic American film.
Every other juror bar him begins the deliberations believing the defendant is guilty and he alone wants to question the evidence and ask the difficult questions.
Which is a good job because it would be a short play if he did not. The heated discussions which followed shone a spotlight on each juror’s personal prejudices and the atmosphere in the packed Rep became ever more electric.
Despite the serious subject matter there were several laugh out loud moments, many provided by Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star Nick Moran.
He was the wise cracking salesman who wanted to get out the stifling jury room as quickly as possible to catch a baseball game that night.
As the drama unfolded veteran actor Robert Vaughn captured both the vulnerability and strength of the old man of the 12 to a tee. Miles Richardson pulled off the difficult job of making a racist juror somehow likable, until that is he delivered a diatribe which still has the power to shock audiences over half a century since it was penned.
Hollywood and Broadway star Jeff Fahey brought his raging character, made famous by Lee J. Cobb in the film, to the boil brilliantly. His escalating rows with Shaw were the centre piece of the drama but every other juror pitched in important interventions as they asked themselves the question “why do I think he is guilty?”
After its premier in Birmingham 12 Angry Men will relocate to London’s West End where if there is any justice it will be a smash hit.
It was edge of the seat stuff from start to finish and now more than ever I want to see the inside of a jury room for real.