Twelve Angry Men Review

Grand Opera House York – until Saturday 18th May 2024

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson


If you haven’t heard of Twelve Angry Men before it was originally a 1957 legal drama film, which was adapted from an earlier piece by Reginald Rose. Following a record-breaking stint in the West End, directed by Christopher Haydon, this thriller of a show has been touring the UK, culminating in its final destination, the beautiful city of York, and the Grand Opera House.

With thirteen actors, consisting of one guard and twelve jurors, the title, Twelve Angry Men, explains it all. The jurors exit the courtroom to go to the jury room, to deliberate whether a man is guilty of the murder of his father. The tragic thing is, is that this ‘man’ is really a 16-year boy, being tried as an adult and a guilty verdict means a death sentence.

After an initial showing of hands, in what appears to be an open and shut case of guilty, Juror 8 throws a spanner into the works with his vote. What follows is a tense, animated, gripping and occasionally physical debate, after all, the verdict must be unanimous.

It’s hot and stuffy in the jury room, the heat stifling, the fans don’t work, which only leads to a rise in tempers as the discussions progress. York was experiencing a bit of a heatwave when I saw this on Monday night, the theatre was pretty hot, which only enhanced the experience. I almost felt we were part of the set. Very atmospheric.

An excellent cast, led by Jason Merrells as Juror 8. His is the voice of reason, giving a much-needed voice and lifeline to the accused. He is a standout, commanding the stage and is outstanding in the role. With his calm demeanour, questioning the evidence as he endeavours to make the other jurors think, is this man boy guilty beyond reasonable doubt? His character is in complete contrast to Tristan Gemmill’s Juror 3, a bigot who is adamant in the belief that the accused is guilty. We soon come to realise that he is projecting his anger because of the fractured relationship with his son. He unravels as deliberations continue. Gemmill played his character with great passion and depth.

Other cast included, Gray O’Brien, with an exemplary American accent, was disturbing as the vile racist Juror 10, encompassed in his hatred, until everyone had had enough of his rantings. Michael Greco, again with a great accent, as Juror 7, who wanted to be out of there to catch a baseball game, he was full of charisma. Mark Heenehan, with his distinctive voice, as the emotionless Juror 4. Ben Nealon as Juror 12, doodling away and then kept changing his verdict. Samarge Hamilton, Juror 5, with his experience of dealing with racism. All the cast delivered superb emotional portrayals.

The set consisted of a large table, chairs, a bathroom, with working sinks to the side. Sash windows, open at the back, until the rain started, and a couple of fans, neither of which worked, until by a stroke of luck, the ceiling fan burst into action. It was simple and clever, nothing else was needed.

Twelve Angry Men certainly takes you on a journey. This is a tale that we, as a society, have preconceived ideas, moulded by our environment. It may only take that one person to make a difference, that one person to make you question your beliefs, that one person to open your mind. A truly thought-provoking show that is a must see.