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REVIEW: Twelve Angry Men at The Lowry

Image by Jack Merriman

Have you been watching ‘The Jury: Murder Trial’ on Channel 4? If not I highly recommend you do.

The series concludes tonight, with the TV dramatisation putting the very bedrock of the UK legal system in the spotlight.

Actors recreate word for word a real-life murder case.

Two totally separate juries, assembled from members of the public, must then decide if the defendant is guilty of murder, or a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Every courtroom case is a drama, but here reality TV mixes with the docu-drama - and we all know how dramatic and entertaining reality TV can be.

The Channel Four series explores the discussions in the jury room as members digest the evidence of the day, speaking with some of them ‘Big Brother’-style. We therefore learn about their past lives and experiences and how those experiences influence their own individual view and verdict concerning the case.

The premise is essentially identical to ‘Twelve Angry Men’, the story entirely surrounding the aftermath of a murder trial where 12 members of a jury decide a defendant’s fate.

Located in New York in the 1950s, the big difference here is that the accused faces the electric chair if found guilty, and that the jury is made up entirely of men, as was often the case in America at that time.

Nonetheless, the fact an individual’s life is entirely in the hands of 12 members of the public is just the same.

‘Twelve Angry Men’ started out as a TV dramatisation in 1954, penned by Reginald Rose.

With all the action packed into the single set jury room, it promptly transferred to the stage just a year later, before becoming the critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated film of the same name in 1957 starring Henry Fonda.

Now, following a record-breaking West End season, a powerful production of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is back in session and on tour, showing at The Lowry this week.

This court, taut thriller has a heavyweight cast many will recognise from our own television screens.

This includes Jason Merrells (Casualty, Emmerdale), Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street, Peak Practice), Tristan Gemmill (Coronation Street, Casualty), Michael Greco (EastEnders), Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier) and Gary Webster (Minder, Family Affairs), who appear alongside an all-star ensemble.  

Recreating the claustrophobia of the jury room on the wide expanse of the Lowry stage is no easy achievement, but the audience sat in mesmerised silence as the play unfolded, and you could almost feel the sweltering New York summer heat permeating the theatre as the debate reached, at times, fever pitch.

The story slowly exposes and lays bare individual jury member’s prejudices, values and assumptions born from their own experiences and upbringing in horrifying clarity and intensity, with this incredibly acted dramatisation earning a standing ovation at The Lowry.

Just as the Channel Four series seeks to do, ‘Twelve Angry Men’ also highlights the flaws of our democratic justice system. 

What verdict will you reach?

The unmissable ‘Twelve Angry Men’ shows at The Lowry until Saturday. 

For tickets visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/twelve-angry-men/

 

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