July 1- 25
Arthur Miller’s The Hook
A play both underwhelming and overpowering although it clearly paves the way for Miller’s greatest work.
In the Brooklyn dockyards of the ’50s, the good guys have next to no chance, caught between a rock and a hard place: the mobsters and the corrupt dock authorities, the union which is supposed to protect them and their interests.
However, although the accents are spot on, one suspects that in some cases, focus could be more on getting that right rather the role itself. Truth to tell, the dialogue often comes so thick and fast, meaning is obscured. It is also occasionally difficult to follow because of the cast of thousands. One fraught scene, when Dominic (Sean Aydon) descibes to Therese (Susie Trayling) what just happened remains a mystery. She, however, is one of the few whose words are crystal clear, as the feisty wife of Marty Ferrara. In a heroic portrayal by Jamie Sivers, who never gives up the struggle to stand up for justice.
Jem Wall should also be singled out as eager beaver delegate Farragut, particularly with providing much needed humour. The Union man meant to liiase between workers and bosses, from being on the side of the latter, eventually gravitates to the side of the angels, the longshoremen – yes, this is one Miller play which does have a sort of happy ending.
The bad guys stand out too; Joe Alessi as Louis and Sean Murray as Rocky. The exploitation by both Union and Mafia – the shocking injustice, the sheer unfairness of the indignities to which the workers are subjected is breathtaking. Towards the end, one extraordinary scene defies expectations and appears to reveal the unbelievable fickleness of human nature. It surely illustrates how survival instincts always have to kick in.
The staging captures wonderfully the bustle and racket of the docks, as my companion pointed out, and the dockers’ constrained, claustrophobic lives. But some of it escaped me; the fish in the bathtub was presumably symbolic of this, and many other things if we’re going to get metaphorical: big fish and little fish/fish out of water being just a couple of examples. Then there’s Darkeyes (Ewart James Walters) who literally turns a blind eye but may see, ie, know, everything.
However, fair play (not the best use of the phrase but never mind), The Hook was actually suppressed by the FBI, so 60 years on, congratulations to the Everyman for its debut.