You will be on the edge of your seat as Twelve Angry Men argues its way into Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Reginald Rose’s gripping knife-edge courtroom thriller is a must see. It’s a simple format. Twelve jurors have retired to discuss the evidence that they have just heard.. Twelve strangers locked in a room, who need to agree on one decision. Did the 16-year-old really kill his father? Was this murder? Initially this seems to be an open and shut case, but soon becomes a huge dilemma, as prejudices and preconceived ideas about the accused, the trial, and each other turn the tables every which way.
We are with them for every step of the debate. They start with a vote to see where they stand. Eleven vote guilty but one lone voice questions the evidence. Was the knife that unusual? Was it lost? It seems improbable that it fell out of the boy’s pocket just to be picked up and used to stab his father by someone else. But is that beyond a reasonable doubt? What about the two witnesses? Could the man who lived below really hear anything with a noisy train going past on a hot night when he probably had his windows open? What about the woman across the road who believes she witnessed the murder through a speeding train window? Hmmm… what do we believe? As we hear the jurors question the evidence, more start to have questions of if he is indeed guilty of what he has been accused of. Each audience member will make up their own minds. Do we have enough evidence to deliver a guilty verdict knowing that the 16-year-old will go to the electric chair? Or is there enough reasonable doubt to set him free?
We get to know the jurors, one by one, as they show their own life experiences and prejudices are not always helpful in deliberating a murder. Should they judge because the accused is from a poor neighborhood? Because he owns a knife? Because his dad is a drunk and gambler? Because he is black?! Jason Merrells excels as Juror 8, the lone voice brave enough to say not guilty. He is accompanied on stage by Tristan Gemmill, Michael Greco, Ben Nealon, Gary Webster and Gray O’Brien. The quality of the acting is sublime and we are literally on the edge of our seats at every turn of questioning.
Twelve Angry Men has been hailed ‘the classiest, most intelligent drama playing on the West End’ with two West End seasons at London’s Garrick Theatre starring Martin Shaw followed by Tom Conti. It brings the 1957 three-time Academy Award-nominated film, considered one of the great ‘must-sees’ of all time, to the stage.
This play is powerful, intelligent and compelling. And still relevant in today’s society.
There is no reasonable doubt in my mind that this is an exceptional piece that is a must see.
Twelve Angry Men is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 17 February 2024.