Alex Nicholls’ production is aided by a clever and simple design from Tom Couling. It conjures up a New York apartment block and the open nature of the surroundings reminded me in ways of London’s famous Donmar Warehouse. The simplicity of the set enhanced the human element of the story and this is important with an Arthur Miller play, the guild have not focused their energies on a complex set, more on creating complex characters that, as an audience, you are drawn to.
The focal point of the action is a family group, consisting of Eddie (played strongly by Adam Potterton), his wife Beatrice (a mature and very real performance from Ida Persson) and their niece Catherine (Jessica Welch, who grew into the role as the evening went on, her strongest moments coming in act two). They take in Beatrice’s cousins from Italy; Marco (a dominant performance from Tim Younger) and Rodolpho (a great turn from Nathan Grassi) and Catherine promptly falls in love with the handsome Rodolpho which sends Eddie into a spiral of jealous angst that culminates in tragedy. All of this overseen and commented on by lawyer, and Greek chorus figure, Alfieri (David Guthrie in a measured and sympathetic turn).
As you can see, I was impressed with the cast, this is not an easy play and the natural air they give to the action is both settling and unsettling as you do believe it could happen, Nicholls has clearly worked the cast on their motivations and feelings towards each other and while the occasional accent slip was noticeable from one or two it simply didn’t matter. It is also worth noting that even Catherine would have only been a 2nd generation American, so our preconceived notions of ‘an American accent’ are sometimes just that, pre conceived and not actually accurate. Most Italians moving to America during this period will have actually learnt their English from Irish immigrants.
The pace was well set and apart from a brief drop towards the end of Act Two it whizzed along and kept you well entertained and engaged. Alex Nicholls, his cast and the Guild can be pleased with their production and I look forward to checking out Travesties when they perform it later this year at Lady Margaret Hall.