12 Angry Men

 

The film of Reginald Rose's play, set in a jury room, is one of cinema's classic dramas, revived routinely on TV.

You might be tempted to think that it may suffer from overexposure, and that a stage version might lack tension or surprise. Wrong: the current production at Andrews Lane serves to highlight again the sheer skill of the play, the tensions it generates in exploring the motivations and psychologies of the characters and the ease with which prejudice can distort the truth.

Twelve men are entrusted with the task of determining the guilt or innocence of a 17-year-old youth accused of murder. At an opening vote, only one considers the possibility that he may be innocent. The loner at first speaks only of doubt, but insists that his fellow jurers should at least discuss the matter.

Some are indifferent, just wanting to get the job done and go home. Others believe the witnesses for the prosecution have put the issue beyond doubt. Two of them are utterly prejudiced because the accused is coloured, and they have their own demons driving them.

As the prosecution's evidence becomes less compelling when filtered through experience and basic analysis, emotions run high and then higher, until they explode and more is laid bare than the facts of the case.

In a way, this is almost formula theatre: put a group of people under stress in an enclosed space, and let them strip each other down. Done as well as it is here, there is a lot more to it.

A terrific cast, directed by Terry Byrne, lay it all out. Peter Vollebregt is immense as the liberal who starts the ball rolling. Outstanding among his fellow jurors are Paul Bennett, as a cold logician, Barry Cassin, as an old man, Joe Hanley, as the chief bigot, and Pat Nolan, as a naturalised citizen. The others are all in character, making the most of their individual roles. Together they create a royal entertainment, and something more.

Runs until February 2nd; bookings on 01-6795720