The scales of justice hang heavy in stark black and white on the gauze through which the murder jury sit in the shadows at the start of this touring revival of Reginald Rose's post courtroom classic, first seen as a television play before being made iconic in Sidney Lumet's big screen debut in 1957. Christopher Haydon's production, first produced by Birmingham Rep before becoming a West End hit, casts Tom Conti as the anonymous Juror 8, initially the sole dissenter of a pack intent on sending a young boy of colour to his death in what initially seems a cut and dried case.
As the facts are gradually revealed over the next two riveting hours, they also lay bare an assortment of everyday prejudices and knee-jerk notions of law and order fuelled by ignorance, fear and self-loathing.
It's not hard to recognise contemporary universal parallels in Rose's play, which burns with claustrophobic heat in the shabby room of Michael Pavelka's set, where the jurors pace about as if they're the ones on trial or else already incarcerated.
Conti's world-weary understatement as the play opens is a deceptive foil to his fellow jurors as he quietly but determinedly changes everybody's mind. While unexpected gales of gallows humour ripple throughout, it is the ferocious bluster of Denis Lill's Juror 10 and especially Andrew Lancel's fierce turn as Juror 3, lashing out at his own estranged son by proxy, that defines the production. At the play's heart is a noble belief that truth, justice and the American way are still ideals to aspire to, however much they may sometimes be corrupted.
The Herald, February 25th 2015