EastEnders and Coronation Street stars take to the stage in Derby for courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men

Fisticuffs, murder and mayhem is at the heart of Twelve Angry Men showing at Derby Theatre - pictured is Tristan Gemmill (centre) being held back by Gary Webster (left) and Gary Nealon (right)Fisticuffs, murder and mayhem is at the heart of Twelve Angry Men showing at Derby Theatre - pictured is Tristan Gemmill (centre) being held back by Gary Webster (left) and Gary Nealon (right)
Fisticuffs, murder and mayhem is at the heart of Twelve Angry Men showing at Derby Theatre - pictured is Tristan Gemmill (centre) being held back by Gary Webster (left) and Gary Nealon (right)
Who would have thought a courtroom drama about a murder trial would leave me feeling ecstatic?

Twelve Angry Men showing at Derby Theatre is an American courtroom drama based on a jury deliberating a homicide trial. 

On the surface, it appears to be a straightforward case of a Latino boy killing his abusive father.

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Instructed by the judge, jurors are to return a not-guilty verdict if there is any reasonable doubt.

Stay with me, because I promise the subject matter is riveting.

If jurors find the defendant guilty, the death penalty will be handed down, sending the boy to the electric chair. 

A boy’s life literally hangs in the balance. 

The verdict must be unanimous and this is where the slow burn starts, ending in a blazing inferno of emotional display. 

One juror decides to vote ‘not guilty’ which oddly pushes other jurors to the extreme. 

What unfolds is 120 minutes of exemplary acting that will leave you breathless in parts, such as the intensity and sheer talent of the actors.  

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The starry cast including Jason Merrells (Emmerdale, Casualty, Waterloo Road), Michael Greco (Eastenders), Gray O'Brien (Coronation Street), Gary Webster (EastEnders) reads like a ‘who’s who’ of television talent.

It is interesting to note that the original Reginald Rose play was based on a 1954 teleplay (the Oscar-nominated film came later) and having seasoned television actors somehow gives the play more depth.

Why I loved Twelve Angry Men at Derby Theatre

The play is a joy to watch because the characters play their part so very well.

Merrells as Juror 8, The Architect, brings calm introspection to the role, as he paces the courtroom, hands in pockets, mulling over the consequences of his actions - which could put a potential murderer back out onto the streets.

Ben Nealon as Juror 12, The Ad Man, plays his ‘for the ages’ character with aplomb, who is a cocky know-it-all - we’ve all met someone like this in the office. 

Scene stealers are aplenty, but it is Greco as Juror 7, The Yankee Fan, whose table-hopping antics will leave you chuckling.

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It is difficult to pinpoint one key performance, as it is a great cast that will deliver powerhouse performances galore.

Tristan Gemmill’s Juror 3, The Father, left me speechless, and that finale, my God those last three minutes have been seared into my brain.

There was a lot of shouting by various characters and I honestly hope they have Strepsils because they were screaming themselves hoarse, such was the intensity of performances on the night.

Rollercoaster ride of emotion

We are taken on a rollercoaster ride, watching characters struggle as they dig deep and try not to let previous experiences taint their decision.

The oppressive atmosphere and clever production of a revolving table and thunderclaps transported us to the courthouse on an unbearably hot, sticky afternoon. 

I loved the 1957 Sidney Lumet-directed classic and honestly wondered how a Derby Theatre production would compare.

It is more than just a theatre show.

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It is a feat of acting that will imbue you with positivity as you revel in the knowledge that common sense and faith in human nature prevail.  

I found the play even more immersive and enjoyable than the film, which is why I think everyone should watch this magnificent Bill Kenwright production. 

Twelve Angry Men is showing at Derby Theatre until Saturday, February 3.

Address: 15 Theatre Walk, Derby DE1 2NF

For more information visit the theatre’s website by clicking here.

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