This is theatre with a grand sense of itself as theatre. Insurance mogul Lyman Felt (Tom Conti), in the intensive-care section of Tanya McCallin's unfolding-ziggurat set after driving his car off the mountain, receives unwelcome visits from both his wives at once. He's a bigamist, you see. In this Whose Wife Is It Anyway? dilemma, Lyman admits honestly that he wants them both, resolving to be true to himself at the unavoidable expense of others.
The welcome arrival of a thoughtful play in the West End, however, is offset by the worryingly lapidary nature of Arthur Miller's prose, which positively plonks with gravitas ("How many different ways there are to try to be real" – I ask you!) even amid the bonhomie of Conti's wisecracking selfish bastard. Clare Higgins' Leah (wife no. 2) is a creature of warmth, Gemma Jones' Theo (no. 1) occasionally manages tepidity, but both are written as creatures only; consequently, their climactic dual walk-out never attains the magnitude of the stereo post-liberal Doll's House moment it needs to be. Oh, yes, there's a superfluous dream-father in there somewhere as well. It feels like standing in a stone circle: impressively majestic, but the runes are indecipherable and probably not that profound anyway.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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