Jury members are ushered into a room through a single doorway, which, once through it, the door is shut and a guard locks it from the outside. No matter, there will be little time for the claustrophobia to hit, as deliberating the evidence is not going to take all day. In the minds of the majority here, the thing is pretty much settled. The defendant, a boy of sixteen must have knifed his father in the chest during a heated argument. The prosecution case against him is much too strong. Or is it? And this turns out to be the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.
Not only is this play a fascinating insight to the seriousness and responsibility of a 12-strong jury in a court of justice, but a window into the independent thoughts and responses of a mixed bag of individuals.
Once in the jury room, while disputing with one another, some jurors expose their own insecurities and indecisiveness and others a certain kind of ignorance. Prejudices surface. Being reminded of the flaws of personality beholden to some (and some more than others), you might be forgiven if you wonder how the principle behind trial by jury could actually work in regard to fair trial deliverance, when the verdict decision is in the hands of people who might not be that bright or whose behaviour shows blatant bias.
Whereas, no system is fail safe, it is the differing combination, the randomness of selection, of twelve people coming together in one room to bash out the detail that works the best it can when the stakes are so high. As this play demonstrates it only takes one in the room to set out a measured, educated reflection on a few crucial points, for the duty bound others to, eventually, remove their own selves from the argument in their own ways. Then a certain kind of climatic control occurs, organically. In this play, for example it is not just the atmospheric conditions of a built up area on a summer’s day that is hot and stormy, or the feel within the jury room itself, it is the healthy democratic process that is unfolding and it is absolutely compelling to watch.
All twelve players, who perform the parts of the twelve Jurors, are hugely capable and professional and give us a wonderful, artistic rendering of Twelve Angry Men. Expertly directed by Christopher Haydon and designed by Michael Pavelka.
At The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until 14 Feb
Reviewer, Debra Hall attended press night at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on 09 February 2015