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Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Oct 14, 2009 - 12:47 AM Archive

by Arthur Miller.

Octagon Theatre To 24 October 2009.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 14 Oct 1.30pm 17 Oct 2pm.
Audio-described 15 Oct.
BSL Signed 8 Oct.
Post-show discussion 15 Oct.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 October.

Guilt-trip Octagon autumn starts out in fine style.

Never mind glass ceilings. American businessman Joe Kellerís back-garden becomes glass-floored in Patrick Connellan Ďs set, a half-metre above the kind of dry-baked earth where US pilots crashed in World War II owing to faulty engines provided by Kellerís company. His business partner took the rap, but guilt revisits the Keller household when that partnerís son arrives out-of-the-blue.

As David Thackerís detailed revival makes clear, Arthur Miller was looking more widely in his 1947 drama. Joeís son Larry died in a separate war-flight, which turns out not so separate, as the inter-connectedness of society is gradually revealed.

Jokingly, Joe says he wears the pants and his wife beats him with the belt. Certainly the women carry the emotional weight as the men use sociable flippancy to flick anxieties aside. Margot Leicesterís hospitable apple-pie welcome for Ann covers her determination Larryís going to return to claim her as his love, while Vanessa Kirbyís Ann belies the apparent relaxation with which she sits, when matters become increasingly fraught.

Connellanís near-minimal setting helps remind about the neighbours either side (itís important Joeís part of a neighbourhood, even playing police-chief with local children). On one side smiling middle-class American dreaminess with horoscopes, on the other medical science, with Francesca Ryanís Sue anxious Chris Kellerís idealism might divert her doctor husband into poorly-paid medical research.

Though Thackerís Octagon debut handles the later scenes well enough (a tad too much dependency on shouting perhaps as action and accusations hot-up), the real quality is in the relaxed mood created before the interval, a suburban normality that metamorphoses imperceptibly with gradual, anguished revelations and the ultimate drawing together of the link between family and the wider society, which Joe had denied existed.

George Irving never overplays Joeís narrow cultural outlook or makes him too overtly self-certain, though the characterís fully present. So, as the pattern and texture of guilt weave through Thackerís revival, it stands a fit companion for another classic drama of moral responsibility emerging from the past, Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen, which comes next in an Octagon autumn likely to be seriously filled with guilty pleasures.

Joe Keller: George Irving.
Jim Bayliss: Patrick Poletti.
Frank Lubey: Huw Higginson.
Sue Bayliss: Francesca Ryan.
Lydia Lubey: Tammy Joelle.
Chris Keller: Oscar Pearce.
Bert: Jamie McKenna/Alex OíLoughlin/Josh Taylor/Sam Thompson.
Kate Keller: Margot Leicester.
Ann Deever: Vanessa Kirby.
George Deever: Mark Letheren.

Director: David Thacker.
Designer: Patrick Connellan.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Movement: Lesley Hutchinson.
Music consultant: Carol Sloman.
Assistant director: Elizabeth Newman.
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