The Last Yankee - Review

The New Venture Theatre continues to enhance its reputation as a leading exponent of Arthur Miller’s work with this play, a perfect example of compact writing with four beautifully crafted characters that cry out for sensitive direction and fine actors and in this production they got it!

Set in a state mental hospital the play looks with sensitivity and, surprisingly, a great deal of humour at that great American disease, depression. The play begins with two men meeting in the waiting room of the hospital visiting their wives. Leroy Hamilton’s wife, Patricia, having been depressed and on medication for 15 years is there for the third time whilst Karen Flick is a new arrival. Her brash & insensitive husband blunders around seeking reasons and answers for her breakdown by interrogating the placid Leroy.

Patricia, having taken herself off medication, begins to think about going home and uses her newfound well being to give confidence to Karen who has retreated from reality into a world where she can dress up and tap dance. The play ends on a note of hope for the Hamitons but not so for the Flicks who seemed doomed through the husband’s lack of understanding.

The quality of the acting had the audience mesmerised throughout. Jerry Lyne's Flick captured the essence of the man – confused and wanting explanations whilst being oblivious to the fact that he was the reason for his wife’s breakdown. He was contrasted by Mike Chowney as the quiet unassuming Leroy, content to be a one-man business, for as he put it, "When you are the only one in the queue you are always the head of the line". Leila Leam showed particular skill in the use of facial expression that often spoke volumes whilst Carlye Cline showed how effective underplaying a part could be.

Credit must be given to Martin Nichols, the Director, for bringing out the best from his actors and for the unusual staging of the action. The choice of placing the action within a narrow aisle with the audience either side was a bold one with skilful movement of the characters ensuring that faces could be seen rather than backs of heads.

Barrie Jerram