Express & Star

'Outstanding' courtroom play with pacey script is worth a watch - review

Reginald Rose’s gripping courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men plays at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this week with an all-star cast.

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Although originally written for the stage this piece is probably best known for the 1957 film adaptation starring Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb in which 12 jurors decide the fate of a 16-year-old boy who is accused of murdering his abusive father.

At the start 11 of the 12 fully support a guilty verdict with the exception of Juror Eight who suggests that there may be an element of doubt and presents his case. One by one, the remaining 11 slowly begin to change their minds over what will the final verdict will be.

We are then taken on a rollercoaster of indecision and doubt.

The cast of Twelve Angry Men Photo: Jack Merriman

Michael Pavelka’s set perfectly displays the stifling, oppressive room in which the men are crammed, guaranteed to make tempers flare and test their patience. While Chris Davey’s lighting plot is atmospheric, especially in depicting time passing from day to night as the plot moves seamlessly along.

All 12 actors are on stage constantly which means that their characters are on display the whole time. If you watch closely you will see their individual personas at close quarters and imagine how their minds are working overtime to understand the different aspects of the case.

There is nothing to hide behind. No particular special effects, music or elaborate scene changes. The actors certainly earn their crust as the buck stops with them.

That said, there is one specific feature in the show that is pretty impressive and involves the table around which the jurors are sat. No spoilers here, but it is subtle yet striking.

As you would fully expect from the subject matter, the script of the piece is serious, pacey and intelligently written, yet there were light-hearted moments too which raise a much-needed smile and break the tension. The delivery of the lines is extremely natural and you feel as if you are watching a snapshot of real life.

The cast of “Twelve Angry Men” gels effortlessly together to create the title of the play, and it feels very unfair to pick out individuals for praise as everyone was outstanding.

However, TV and theatre favourite Jason Merrells is exceptional in the role of Juror Eight offering a refined and unassuming performance of a man steadfast in his quest to see justice done.

Tristan Gemmill as his nemesis, Juror Three, dominates the piece showing no remorse or humanity. Maybe toning his performance down just a little would make it more believable, but nevertheless, another excellent portrayal.

Christopher Haydon and Tim Welton’s direction is precise and authentic, resulting in one of the best dramatic offerings on tour this year.

In 2024, the origins of the piece may feel a little outdated, but it is a play of its time and should be accepted as such. Of course we have moved on in terms of inclusion and diversity, but you cannot and should not rewrite history.

For tickets visit or call 01902 429212.

Rating: Five Stars

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