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Watermill - Broken Glass

6th to 30th April 2005.

There is a review by Reviews Gate here ("a strong company bring it off well... Jenny Quayle’s immobile Sylvia is an excellent performance... a fine actress giving one of her best performances...  David Fielder’s excellent work throughout... a powerful evening").

There is a BBC Radio Berkshire review here ("Phillip was played with great skill and credibility by David Fielder... a bouquet too for Jenny Quayle's Sylvia - a complex, anxious and loving portrayal... I am coming increasingly to the view that American accents should never be attempted by British actors").

From Theatreworld.

Without warning Mrs. Gellburg loses the use of her legs. Her husband is distraught. Her doctor can find no organic cause but, this being 1930s Brooklyn and he being Heidelberg trained, he embarks on a sort of a talking cure. And so begins an ebb and flow about the mistreatment of Jews in Germany, about the place of immigrants in America and about marital relationships.

Prompted by the civil war in Yugoslavia, Arthur Miller wrote Broken Glass during the last flowering of his talent. This is a rare chance to see this work by one of the greatest dramatists of the 20th Century. But it's not a good production.

The Brooklyn accents are all over the place, the scene changes marked by projections of the Brooklyn Bridge are endless, and, worst of all, Patrick Poletti in the role of the doctor, is appalling. He looks and behaves like the lead in a bad American sitcom - shouting above an imaginary laughter track (the play is not intended as a comedy) - so that one barely gets an inkling of the subtle and important relationships between him and his patient (Jenny Quayle - who barely rises above his level of acting). And yet in the middle of this production that barely achieves the pedestrian is a stunning and powerful performance from David Fielder as the neurotic and conflicted husband.

In a way it is unfortunate for the production that David Fielder is so good. He makes the rest of the cast look two-dimensional. But such is the quality and intrigue of his acting that he fascinates the audience. Luckily he is on stage for a large proportion of the play and while he is there you don't care about the shortcomings of the show.

I could belabour the contrast between Fielder and the rest. But it is perhaps more useful to say that watching him performing Miller is astonishing, alone worth the price of the ticket, and somehow he draws the sting of the awfulness of the production. His talent carries the show.

IAN WILLOX

From Kick FM.

Arthur Miller’s play Broken Glass is on at the Watermill. It’s about the relationships between two couples in 1930s America, seen from a Jewish perspective at a time when the anti-Jewish atrocities were starting to take place in Germany. It’s a cleverly constructed play, with outstanding performances from the three main actors, and it’ll make you think about your own relationship with your partner! I can strongly recommend this play, but you’ll have to be quick; this is its final week.

PAUL SHAVE

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Psychological teaser

Broken Glass, at The Watermill, until April 30

Arthur Miller was America's foremost post-war playwright. His works, intricate musings on the darkness at the heart of the American Dream, struck a chord with a whole generation of theatregoers with plays such as Death of A Salesman.

Broken Glass is a later work, first performed in New York in 1994. Its current appearance at The Watermill acknowledges both the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the recent death of 89-year-old Miller.

Set in 1938, a Brooklyn couple, stressed husband Phillip Gellburg and restless wife Sylvia, are forced to deal with her sudden inability to walk.

According to Dr Hyman, this affliction could exist for many distinct reasons. Is it the demise of the couple's bitter marriage or her feverish obsession with Germany's 'Kristallnacht', that is 'night of broken glass' and its associated atrocities?

It's a plot designed as both psychological tease and whodunit, as aspiring Freudian Hyman attempts to establish the roots of the elusive illness.

Director Andy Brereton, for whom it is his second Watermill production, believes that the play is ultimately about our desperate need to communicate with each other.

Themes of isolation and alienation are certainly apparent and although they focus on the Jewish American experience have a contemporary resonance.

David Fielder projects Gellburg as a man uneasy with himself and his ' Jewishness' that he has lost all communication with both the world and his crippled tormented wife, played heroically by Jenny Quayle.

On the other hand, Fielder's range of emotion is sadly lacking in Patrick Poletti's Doctor and ex-playboy Hyman. But to be fair, maybe the doctor's lightweight cosmopolitan style was meant to be seductive, as clearly his concerns for Sylvia seem more than medical curiosity.

Gary McCann's set and Chris Scott's lighting are excellent and made the best use of the Watermill space, as light flooded throughout the lucent back pane, throwing shadows to remind that beyond the closed minds and doors stood a vibrant Brooklyn.

Against this backdrop the entire cast are faithful to the narrative. However I felt uneasy with the English cast attempting 'Nu York' accents and despite dialect coach Richard Tyrrell's best efforts the cast often slipped into parody.

Nonetheless such a small quibble will certainly not distract the legions of Miller enthusiasts who will certainly not be disappointed by The Watermill's production.

DAVID STOCKTON