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This is a real coup for director Sean Turner. We knew of the existence of this first Arthur Miller play, an entry for a university competition (he needed the money), because he mentioned it in his autobiography, though he never allowed it to be published. Even Miller’s agent and the Arthur Miller Trust had no idea if a script existed. It was eventually located in the archives of the University of Michigan. To their great credit, all three organisations have agreed to this world premiere in a room above a pub in Islington. 

The first thing to say is that if you didn’t know it was the first play by a 20-year-old student, you’d never know it. It’s better than many plays I’ve seen by mature playwrights. It’s uncanny how it contains themes Miller would return to in his greatest plays 10-20 years later. In a ‘blind tasting’ I’d know it was a Miller play within minutes. That all may be because it’s clearly autobiographical. The Simon family are in the rag trade but the business is struggling, partly down to their striking workers. Their son Arnold, a communist, is conflicted when he comes home from college, pressed to choose between his family and his politics.

It’s a beautiful production with designs by Max Dorey that make great use of the space. Populating some rails with coats takes you from home to business. The costumes perfectly anchor the piece in the period. There’s an outstanding atmospheric jazz soundtrack from Richard Melkonian. All of the creative contributions gel to produce a very cohesive whole.

I very much liked Adam Harley’s passionate Arnold, struggling to reconcile his idealism with his family loyalty. David Bromley captures the very archetypal Miller patriarch very well, trying to keep the family afloat, as does Nesba Krenshaw the matriarch, trying to keep the family together. There isn’t really a weak link in the rest of this cast, who can all claim to have originated a Miller role – not a lot of actors can say that!

On it’s own its a rewarding evening’s theatre, but when you add in the script hunt and the significance of the work in helping us understand the evolution of one of the world’s greatest playwrights, it’s a bit of a triumph. For me, along with Northampton Royal & Derngate’s The Hook (a staging of Miller’s unproduced film script) this is the highlight of the Miller Centenary.

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