Day 8 of 80 — Twelve Angry Men

Around London in 80 days

In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon ; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.

And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.

Day 8 : Twelve Angry Men

Juror 1 : “Guilty”. Juror 2 : “Guilty”. Juror 3 : “Guilty”. Juror 4 : “Guilty”. Juror 5 : “Guilty”. Juror 6 : “Guilty”. Juror 7 : “Guilty”. Juror 8 : Not guilty“. Juror 9 : “Guilty” Juror 10 : “Guilty”. Juror 11 : “Guilty”. Juror 12 : “Guilty”.

I’m at the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road. It’s 2013, I’m broke and lonely in the *”*Big Smoke”, and I’ve decided to treat myself to a theatre ticket. I’ve got a “restricted view” seat (they’re cheaper) but 12 Angry Men isn’t exactly a fast play so I should be able to follow the action anyway.

I saw the film a few years ago at an improvised open-air cinema in France : I know the story, no surprises in store for me. And yet…

The place darkens, the curtain opens :

JUDGE : “Murder in the first degree—premeditated homicide—is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You’ve heard a long and complex case, gentlemen, and it is now your duty to sit down to try and separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. If there is a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused . . . then you must declare him not guilty. If, however, there is no reasonable doubt, then he must be found guilty. Whichever way you decide, the verdict must be unanimous. I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully. You are faced with a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.”

The jury retires and start debating. They vote. They disagree. They argue. They fight. As the story unfolds once again in front of me, I find myself as enthralled as the first time I saw it. On the edge of my seat, I’m begging for this or that character to changer their mind, to say something else, to calm down. The theatre, the restricted view, it’s all gone : I’m in the courtroom, reflecting, debating with them.

After a couple of hours, the play comes to and. Exhausted, I stare at the stage ; people start to leave, but I stay in my seat for a while longer, savouring the lingering feel of this magical moment of theatre.

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