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Twelve Angry Men at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 29th Jan 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood


Tom Conti Picture courtesy of Theatre Royal Windsor

During five years as a full-time Crown Court reporter I don’t think I ever felt as engaged in a case as I did during the first night of Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Twelve Angry Men.

I’d always wondered what it would be like in the jury room, but nothing prepared me for the highly charged drama which followed. Tom Conti, voted the most popular actor in the West End in the last 25 years, may have been responsible for the full house, but his beautifully understated performance is only one of many gems in this extraordinary production. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this thrilling piece of theatre.

Set on a stifling hot day in 1950s New York, 12 men are locked in a room to decide the fate of a 16-year-old on trial for the murder of his father. Not much to get excited about, you may think, especially as it begins with almost bar room banter as the 12 exchange niceties. But under Christopher Haydon’s direction it is a rumbling volcano of emotions and prejudices which go on to erupt into frightening and ugly scenes.

So real did it seem and so involved did I become with the characters that I found myself nodding in agreement when different points were made, and so engrossed was I in what was going on that I never once saw the table (around which the men sat) move, though it kept turning 360 degrees!

Michael Pavelka’s set and Mark Howett’s lighting do much to create the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere: the dusty windows are open, the fan doesn’t work and a storm is brewing. When it breaks, thunder crashes and rain pours down the windows, mirroring the mood of different jurors. It’s breathtaking.

Despite Tom Conti’s star billing, every actor stands out - even the guard, played by Jon Carver, if only because he has to sit doing nothing for more than two hours!

Among the major roles, however, I wonder Denis Lill doesn’t have a heart attack as the apoplectic Jurer 10, whose volatile outbursts had me shaking in my shoes, while Andrew Lancel is unrecognisable as the former Corrie killer Frank Foster, this time putting in a striking performance as a knuckle-headed country boy who, despite his attitude, had me in tears with his heart rending finale.

Conti, on the other hand, stands out as the one quiet, contemplative and compassionate juror who sets the ball rolling when, in the beginning, he is the only one of the 12 to vote not guilty.

This is strong stuff, and Reginald Rose is to be applauded once again for his worthy script which addresses serious social issues as prevalent today as they were in the 1950s.

Twelve Angry Men continues at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 7.

Box office: 01753 853888

It then tours:

Feb 9-14: The Belgrade Theatre Coventry

Feb 17-21 Feb New Theatre Cardiff

Feb 23-28: Kings Theatre Edinburgh

Mar 2-7: Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

Mar 9-14: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford

Mar 16-21:  Bord Gais Theatre Dublin

Mar 23-28:  The Lowry Lyric Theatre Salford

Mar 30-Apr 4: Theatre Royal Bath

Apr 6-11: Grand Theatre Leeds

Apr 13-18: Grand Opera Theatre York

Apr 20-25: Venue Cymru Llandudno

Apr 27-May 2: Richmond Theatre Richmond

May 11-16:  Palace Theatre Southend

May 18-23: Grand Theatre Wolverhampton

June 1-6: Queen's Theatre Barnstaple

June 8-13: Ashcroft Theatre Croydon

June 15-20: Theatre Royal Newcastle

June 22-27: Theatre Royal Glasgow



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. High praise indeed!
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