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Ian Waller wonders if the stage production can match the classic move

Let’s face it, Henry Fonda was cool. He was one of those few super laid back dudes of the classic Hollywood era who didn’t need mega-muscles and a machine gun to face off the bad guys. Instead, he (generally) played the type of moral, decent, upstanding characters who always fought for the right… and won.

A perfect example was his leading role in the 1957 classic, Twelve Angry Men, where as Juror 8, the only member of a jury not to be convinced on the guilt of a 18 year old man on trial for murder, he takes it upon himself to convince the rest that he’s right.

Photograph by Jack Merriman

Well, now that classic tale is back, thanks to a stage production just arrived at the grand old Theatre Royal Bath, with Patrick Duffy – yes, him of Dallas and The Man From Atlantis – taking on the Henry Fonda role, alongside a cast of familiar faces from British TV, including Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street, Peak Practice), Tristan Gemmill (Coronation Street, Casualty) and Michael Greco (EastEnders).

So it’s that old question, can the new production be anything like as good at the classic original?

Photograph by Jack Merriman

Well, yes, in fact this production is very good indeed – beautifully crafted, superbly acted, with an excellent set and just a pleasure to watch. Across the stage the individual performances are pretty much faultless with perhaps the only question mark being on main man Patrick Duffy’s ability to really project his voice, making his lines more of a whisper alongside the resounding speeches from the rest of the cast.

While the play is set in 1950s America, the story is still relevant, bringing up subjects of racism, classism, how it’s perhaps it’s more important to consider a person’s innocence over a ticket to a ball game and indeed the social and emotional baggage that we all carry with us. A particularly foul racist rant from one of the jurors includes elements that wouldn’t feel out of a place in a speech from one particular former US president, while the socially aware and considerate observations of the main character would probably be labelled woke and snowflake by certain newspapers today.

As the tension builds, so the true characters among the jurors spill out, along with their inability to freely appreciate each others views and life experiences. “He can’t hear you and never will,” says one juror about another’s unwillingness to accept a different view of the case.

That this is presented around a superb, slick and clever script on the back of top class stagecraft by the 12 core character on stage makes this an unmissable piece of classic theatre.

Twelve Angry Men appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 27th November to Saturday 2nd December. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or book online at