The American Clock - Review

Arthur Miller's epic play was a worthy contribution to the Brighton Festival. It challenged not only its director & cast but also the audience who become part of the production through it being presented as a promenade performance. The play, like a huge patchwork quilt with scenes that depicted American life, both urban & rural, in the 1920's, centred around a wealthy family whose lives were devastated by the Stock Market crash & the ensuing Depression - a situation Miller observed first hand through his own parents undergoing such an experience. Woven around them are other people's stories - some moving & some comic.

The director showed great vision in choosing to stage the play as a promenade performance for I felt that it enhanced Miller's text. Maybe its poor reception on Broadway was due to its more conventional staging. A nice touch, I thought, was to set the mood for the promenade by having the cast, in costume & character, wander about the bar area before the play began. The cast & audience then moved into the acting area together. By not being seated & with action taking place around & amongst us we became more involved in the events as they unfolded. At times we were merely eavesdropping on family conversations and at others we were part of the action whether it be at an auction or an attempted lynching. The production was well paced with the change of scenes being achieved through the subtle use of lighting & music.

The large cast are to be congratulated for the discipline that they showed by being unfazed by the close proximity of the audience and on providing such excellent ensemble work. It would be unfair to single out any individual performances, the cameo parts being played to the same high level as that of the leading roles.

The evening provided such a truly theatrical & enjoyable experience that any negative feelings I may have had can only be minor ones. With the action switching from one part of the studio to another there were occasions when opening dialogue was lost due to the audience shuffling into place. Whilst music & song was often appropriate it was a problem when the singing was simultaneous with dialogue. The result being that neither was heard.

Barrie Jerram