Broken Glass for me tonight was an exceptional piece of theatre. An evening I will remember for a long time to come.
Set in New York in 1938 and written in 1994, Arthur Miller’s play takes us on the journey of Mr and Mrs Gellburg’s 25 year long marriage in meltdown. Sylvia Gellburg unexplainably has become paralyzed, unable to walk and medical tests are inconclusive, all those close to her are baffled by this sudden illness. Dr Harry Hyman is convinced it’s a ‘hysterical paralysis’ and is convinced it’s being caused by her state of mind.
Dr Hyman sets about trying to get the bottom of all the issues affecting Mr and Mrs Gellburg, which makes for compelling yet uncomfortable viewing as all the secrets of their marriage are revealed.
The haunting overture of cellist Laura Moody perfectly sets the tone of the discord of not only the Gellburg’s relationship but also the political discord that was unfolding at the time.
Mrs Gellburg is petrified of the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and is fearful of what horrors could occur if it is all to escalate. Constantly searching the papers for any news about the “Night of Broken Glass’ (Kristallnacht) caused by the anti-Semitic uprising in Germany. Mr Gellburg is however resentful of his Jewish heritage, and we are to learn that this is all part of his torturous self-loathing.
Fascinating and touching this play keeps you guessing yet also is very funny.
The performances in this production are totally magical we are absolutely transported into their confused and sad predicament.
The loneliness within the Gellburg’s marriage is heartbreaking and a key thought stood out for me when Mrs Gelburg tells her husband “I have thrown my life away… I took better care of my shoes”.
Anthony Sher carries us through this story playing angst ridden Mr Gellburg to perfection, Tara Fitzgerald plays Mrs Gellburg with inspiring conviction. Together they draw us into their world marvelously.
Stanley Townsend as Dr Harry Hyman is both kind and disturbing in equal measures. Caroline Loncq is lovely as Dr Hyman’s down to earth plain speaking wife. I particularly liked Suzan Sylvester’s performance as Mrs Gellburg’s sister, showing us genuine concern for her sister’s plight.
This is a must see production directed expertly by Iqbal Khan.
I left contemplating the dangers of sweeping problems under the carpet. Hoping they will disappear, however problems ignored, can get so much worse than you could ever imagine.
by Joanna Forest
18th September 2011