Guilty or not guilty . . .  12 men and true. Pictures: Jack Merriman

Twelve Angry Men

Lichfield Garrick


Sidney Lumet’s landmark 1957 movie, Twelve Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda features highly in any Best Films Ever Made list and provides a perfect vehicle for subsequent stage versions. The latest of these arrives at The Lichfield Garrick in what is a welcome return to quality drama programming at the venue.

*Reginald Rose’s powerful story of 12 jurors deliberating on the conviction or acquittal of a teenager charged with murder is an absorbing exploration of how morals and values are influenced by disagreement and conflict.

What at first seems an open and shut case becomes less of a foregone conclusion as the twelve men debate and counter each other’s arguments. The seeds of doubt about a guilty conviction grow slowly but surely and tempers rise amongst the group as the search for a fair resolution unravels.

The play’s simplicity is, in fact, it’s strength. No scene changes, no complicated sub plots, just 12 people in one room with a job to do and a decision to make. It flows beautifully, mixing the inevitable debate around the table sections with moments of face to face conflict and individual speeches that give each juror space to expand on their individual reasons for their guilty or not guilty decisions.

There is simplicity, too, in the opening set up. The men enter the room, look around, chat among themselves, open the windows - all done without specific or obvious dialogue and perfectly reflecting the slight awkwardness that would happen when 12 complete strangers are thrown together.


Characters are disparate and cleverly drawn. It’s a cross section of society, as of course you would expect from a jury. There’s an excitable one. A sarcastic one. A wise cracker. A deep thinker. Older, younger and everything in-between. Such a varied mix are never going to agree and that, indeed, is the whole point.

Michael Pavleka’s set design is suitably stark, cleverly incorporating a rest room where characters come and go to freshen up, let off steam and re charge. Large windows at the back are opened to allow the air to come in and closed when the heavens open. There’s also a stage revolve, very slowly turning the table round as the action progresses.

Performances are consistent all round and at times compelling. Pace and flow are crucial in a play that relies so heavily on dialogue and this is achieved from the outset.

Jason Merrells as Juror 8 plays a calm counterpoint to his more agitated colleagues with assured conviction. in direct contrast, Gary Webster as Juror 6 lets his passion get on top of him in another nicely measured portrayal.

Strong performances too from Michael Greco as the wise cracking and impatient Juror 7 and Mark Heenehan as the unshakeable Juror 4, commanding his space with impressive, calm authority.

Huge credit too for Jeffrey Harmer, coming on as Juror 3 in place of Tristan Gemmill. impassioned acting throughout and in no way lessening the overall quality.

Gray O’Brien, Ben Nealon, Paul Beech, Samarge Hamilton, Kenneth Jay, Paul Lavers, Owen Oldroyd and Adam Phillip Bloom complete a tight and energised cast.

A tense and engaging piece of theatre directed by Christopher Haydon that will keep you right on the edge of your seat. To 13-04-24.

Tom Roberts


*Reginald Rose was a staff writer at CBS and wrote the original TV play after being on jury duty. That original can be seen here. The Internet Archive


The trial continues Wolverhampton Grand  6-11 May, 2024.  

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