As Twelve An­gry Men heads to York­shire, Phil Pen­fold catches up with stage and screen vet­eran Tom Conti.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

HERE do you go when you are head­ing the cast of a drama set in a court­room? For Tom Conti, the an­swer was per­fectly ob­vi­ous. A cou­ple of years back, he found him­self cast as a cru­sad­ing TV jour­nal­ist, who found him­self in the dock. Tom re­calls: “So I did what seemed to­tally nat­u­ral. I went off to the Old Bai­ley, and I sat and I watched the pro­ceed­ings, day af­ter day, to get a flavour of what it was all about. I have to say that some of it was pretty gory, and there were some grue­some de­tails dis­closed. But in be­tween all that ‘ex­cite­ment’, there were some long and very bor­ing pas­sages that were just plain tire­some….”

He laughs: “Clearly, you can’t have those bits played out on stage, oth­er­wise you’d be send­ing the au­di­ence off to sleep. So a play­wright takes the best mo­ments, and dis­tils them into his nar­ra­tive.”

But that wasn’t Tom’s first ex­pe­ri­ence of the legal process. He’s now 73, and we have to go back over 60 years to when the 10-year-old Tom went to court in Scot­land (he was born in Pais­ley and raised in Glas­gow) af­ter he and a young chum dis­cov­ered some aban­doned goods in a lo­cal wood.

“Be­ing two very well-brought-up young­sters, we knew that our duty was to go to the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion, and to re­port our find,” he re­calls, “and then, later, we were asked to go and re­peat our story in the court…the only thing I re­ally re­mem­ber is that I felt rather sorry for the man who was on trial for the bur­glary. He looked so very mis­er­able.”

It will be a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the long arm of the law when Tom ar­rives in York­shire with a re­vival of the Fifties clas­sic, Twelve An­gry Men, which started life as a US TV drama, was adapted for the stage, and then be­came a huge hit film with Henry Fonda.

“The strange thing is,” muses Tom – based at home in North Lon­don for a few days – “that a lot of peo­ple will re­mem­ber Mr Fonda’s scene-steal­ing per­for­mance in the movie and quite rightly so, but very few can re­call what the plot is, and how it twists and de­vel­ops.

“I’ve met peo­ple af­ter the show who have said that they were mys­ti­fied as to how ev­ery­thing turns out – and that they’d seen the film, ages back, but couldn’t re­mem­ber the end­ing at all.

“So, in ef­fect, we are de­liv­er­ing some­thing that is very fresh. It is very much a glimpse into a world where rel­a­tively few of us will ever go. The closed room where a jury de­lib­er­ates. A peek into the sanc­tum sanc­to­rum,

He re­flects: “An­gry Men is all about con­science – do­ing the right thing, mak­ing sure that jus­tice is done. I rather like that.”

HOL­I­DAY RO­MANCE: Tom Conti and Pauline Collins in Shirley Valen­tine, the hit film writ­ten by Willy Rus­sell.

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