This week the people of York are in for a real theatrical delicacy. Tom Conti heads a stellar cast as Juror 8 in Twelve Angry Men.
A young sixteen year old delinquent boy is charged with the murder of his father, he faces the death penalty if convicted.
The twelve jurors are locked in a room on a steamy hot evening to decide his fate. It appears to be an open and shut case when eleven of the jurors believe him to be guilty on the evidence given. Only Juror 8 stands alone - even though the evidence against the boy is compelling Juror 8 does not believe he should be put to death for a murder he didn’t believe could be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Tom Conti plays an architect, a deeply thoughtful,fair-minded analytical man jaded by life but quietly unswerving in his belief that the evidence given could be flawed.
The jurors come from all walks of life, some hold prejudices towards the defendant because of where he is from. Others were keen to get away early to pursue their own activities but without a unanimous verdict they would all have to stay locked in the claustrophobic environment until their verdict was reached.
Throughout the tense performance Juror 8 slowly unpicks the evidence, at first he stands alone; he is shouted at, mocked and ridiculed for not accepting a guilty verdict.
Reginald Rose wrote the original story after a personal experience of being locked in a room for eight hours with eleven other men chosen for jury service in 1954. He used the tension and anger of the ensuing argument he experienced to write his thrilling courtroom drama.
A clever technique used in this production is the invisibly revolving table at which a few of the jurors are always sitting around. The audience is able to see all their faces at some point during the show somehow making the drama of the situation even more intense.
The brilliance of this play is that it is relevant to all of us, any of us could be called for jury service and put into the situation we see on the stage. It questions attitudes, prejudices, strengths and weaknesses of us as people. Although written in the 1950s these points are still relevant today.
This is a stunning production, full of tension and drama building until the very end when a verdict is eventually reached - you will have to go along to find out which one! Twelve Angry Men is on at The Grand Opera House until Sat 18 April.