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Twelve Angry Men at the Birmingham Rep

October 14, 2013

Reginald Rose‘s “Twelve Angry Men” was inspired by his personal jury experience in 1954 and originally he wrote it as a one hour TV play. Most of us know the movie that followed with Henry Fonda released in 1957. On the UK release, the Times called it a “tense, taut, claustrophobic, piece of work”.

Martin Shaw is cast in the Henry Fonda role of juror number 8 in this brand new production of TWELVE ANGRY MEN at the Birmingham Rep directed by Christopher Hayden. Hayden has assembled an incredible cast who all give stellar performances. Every interesting aspect of each of the characters in the room is splendidly brought out in detailed performances which push the drama constantly. I would certainly describe this play as “tense and taut” and the Birmingham audience gave a thunderous applause of approval.

I am not quite so sure about all of Michael Pavelka’s design choices. He has used the cross-bar steel frame structure of a lighting rig with lights as the skeleton to the visible set to hang various doors and windows to give the sense of the rooms in a very open design. I would like to see these actors more contained within the room. The “claustrophobic” aspect of this tale was somewhat lost in the space. Perhaps a smaller confined stage might do it? This play will transfer to the Garrick at the beginning of November and play until at least March 2014. I will be sure to see it there.

However much more significant in the design was the choice to use a revolve turning the table that the jurors sit at and giving the impression of time ticking just like a clock, as well as offering different perspectives on what could be very static scene. This single feature gives incredible access to the very heart of the action. BRILLIANT. I wish I had thought of this device and had it available to me when I directed “The King’s Supper” at Central – it would have transformed my play.

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