A lost Arthur Miller play? About the working man’s struggle against corruption? Hannah Dunleavy’s there.
Where am I exactly? Maybe surprisingly, it’s Northampton. The tale of how Arthur Miller’s 1949 screenplay set in the docks of Brooklyn finds itself premiering not only in the UK, but about as far from the sea as you can get, is an interesting one, which starts with the House Un-American Activities Committee and ends with the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatre.
The film was never made: Miller went on to write A View from the Bridge and the proposed director Elia Kazan went on to make On the Waterfront. Both of which tread similar ground.
At the time the FBI worried The Hook would cause unrest in the docks. And almost instantly you can see why. Adapted for the theatre by Ron Hutchinson, it’s an angry, hungry play, which rails against the greed, the corruption and the disinterest among those who rise to the top while those at the bottom have to beg for work but are too scared of what the future holds to do anything about it.
“Jamie Sives is on terrific form, getting right under the skin of Marty, a man desperate enough to be unstoppable but idealistic enough to still be hurt.”
When another unnecessary death on the waterfront shakes the longshoremen from their inertia, Marty Ferrara (Jamie Sives, rocking a Brooklyn accent and a bit of Italian), appears to his fellow workers to be the kind of guy with the right size mouth (and balls) to take a stand against the bosses and the mobsters pulling the strings.
Sives, who since 2002’s Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself has been an actor in search of a worthy role, is on terrific form, getting right under the skin of Marty, a man desperate enough to be unstoppable but idealistic enough to still be hurt.
Paul Rattray also makes his mark as the fiery Enzo and Susie Trayling imbues Therese Ferrara with a purpose that makes her more than ‘the woman at home worrying’. Although obviously the writing should also get credit for that. Hey 2015, take a lesson from 1949, would you?
The fantastic set works very hard on the Royal Theatre’s little stage, which is positively bursting with the large ensemble cast and the buzz of the workplace. Scenes fuse together creating a momentum which, combined with a rather effective soundtrack, nurture the sense that all this is going to end somewhere. And it might not be good.
It’s certainly not subtle (see Marty’s talk of being in chains) but it’s far from simplistic – laying bare the consequences of taking on not just individuals, but a mindset.
And here in 2015, the land of FIFA and zero hours contracts, it may never have been more relevant. Bravo.555 Views
Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.