Moving Perfomance in Miller's Tale

Broken Glass: Arthur Miller Roughcast TheatreHoxne tonight; the Fisher Theatre, Bungay, November 30 and December 1 Written only just over a decade ago, Arthur Miller gives a sardonic and tragic view of world events through the perspective of American domestic life.

Ivan Howlett

Broken Glass: Arthur Miller

Roughcast Theatre

Hoxne tonight; the Fisher Theatre, Bungay, November 30 and December 1


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Written only just over a decade ago, Arthur Miller gives a sardonic and tragic view of world events through the perspective of American domestic life. Miller was 23 years old and an emerging dramatist when Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass - struck terror into European Jewry.

Broken Glass is set in Brooklyn in 1938 when newspapers were full of accounts from Germany of the Nazis smashing shops, burning synagogues, beating and killing.

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In America, a previously fit 40-year-old woman, Sylvia Gellburg (Yves Green) mysteriously loses the use of her legs despite no apparent physical symptoms.

However, she's obsessed to the point of trauma by the newspaper reports from Germany. Her condition is diagnosed as 'hysterical paralysis'.

When her doctor, Harry Hyman (Mark Burridge) looks into things he starts to believe the root of the problem is her relationship with her property valuer husband, Phillip (Paul Baker) who is the play's pivotal figure.

His resentful, ambivalent attitude towards his own Jewishness manifests itself in a dark self-hatred leading to a dry loveless marriage that his wife can take no more.

It's pained, passionate and demanding fare - quite a challenge for Roughcast, but they navigate their way through it with a sure touch.

There's so much that has to work both as a metaphor, and in human terms. Director David Green sees it on one level as a play about denial. Philip's efforts to deny his Jewishness, in striving to be a fully- assimilated American, echo how long the world turned a blind eye to Nazism. Miller examines the guilty, self-preserving inability to recognise the real truths not only on the global scale but personally.

The wife and the doctor, as well as Phillip, have to face up to their own demons to find a way through. These three characters carry the weight of the play in searching scenes often involving just two of them at a time.

It is a measure of their skills and David Green's obvious feel for Arthur Miller that we hang on every word to see how it works out. The temptation to rush things is well resisted.

It's not an easy play. The digging through the motivations of all three characters is a complex business. By bringing it to us, Roughcast Theatre is fulfilling its aims. The best I've seen them do.

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