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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Donmar Warehouse

By Michael Leech

  Andrew Buchan as David Beeves

The prospect of an early play by the renowned American playwright Arthur Miller, inevitably whets the appetite. The work in question, started out as a novel, but was eventually re-worked into a two-act play. Despite the best attempts by the aspiring 25-year old writer, getting the work produced was exceedingly hard. Created in 1939, Miller described it as 'a fable' and its theme as being concerned with 'the dreamlike unreality of success and power'. (It was of course written just as Hitler was subsuming much of continental Europe).

Leading a later parade of much better-known plays, it was Miller's first work to hit Broadway (in 1944). Even though it only lasted four performances it now appears as a notable marker (ah, hindsight!) of an uprising new and fierce talent. Carefully plotted, set as Miller points out 'in this pristine countryside far from the crush and competitive pressures of the city' it possesses a sweet innocence as a play and it's very involving as well, particularly as passion and sucide erupt in the second act. The characters are deeply drawn and understood, a real heralding of the many major works to come.

It is small town America and the playwright paints a masterly canvas of human conflicts and a sudden, sad death. It's very well acted by a cast of eleven. I've lived a good part of a theatrical life in the USA but I often wonder if a native-born American would be genuinely impressed by all-British casts? Has the acting and authentic 'small town USA' air the genuine 'feel' it seems to possess here? I must say it rang very true for me, and I wanted to know more about the actors and their backgrounds.(I find it sad that the now much skinned-down biographies in programs tell you nothing about the actors' background, except what they have performed.) The love story between young David (impressively played by Andrew Buchan ) and the tender palpitating Hester (Michelle Terry ) supports and weaves into the basic plot strongly, and movingly. Although a bit conventional as a story, the disapproving Dad (Nigel Cooke) completes and establishes a taut triangle. The play has been delicately directed by Sean Holmes and very thoughtfully designed for the Donmar's uncompromisingly big bare space by Paul Wills. After a season here it will tour the UK.


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