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Incident at Vichy at Finborough Theatre – Review

Timothy Harker and Jeremy Gagan
Timothy Harker and Jeremy Gagan – Photo Credit Scott Rylander

Written by Arthur Miller, Incident at Vichy is one of his lesser performed productions. This play premiered in 1964, the same year that he and his third wife visited the Mauthausen death camps, and has been performed very few times since then.

The relationship between Jews and the Nazi Party was one that held personal significance to Miller, (he himself an American Jew and his third wife’s family being members of the Nazi Party) it’s no wonder that Miller wrote about what it meant to be a Jew under Nazi occupation.

In the words of Director Phil Willmott “In the season of two plays and a musical I’ve presented this winter I’ve attempted to programme work in which great writers have reflected on similar issues to those we face today.” He goes on to say, “Finally, at the Finborough Theatre, as some Europeans lurch alarmingly to the right politically and Trump’s supporters still clamour for his promised compulsory registration of Muslims, we have Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy.

In this respect Incident at Vichy is a hugely relevant production.

The set for Incident at Vichy is a white cube with a bench, all the action takes place in one place in one act. The use of the set is really interesting as it removes a sense of naturalism from the piece and puts the characters in a framed space that is both timeless and placeless – once again nodding to the current political landscape. It gives a feeling of purgatory. They could be queuing at the gates of Saint Peter, a doctor’s surgery or, as is indeed the case, a facility run by the German SS conducting identity tests to identify Jews.

The play is a true ensemble piece, with thirteen characters each with their own trajectories and tragic stories that have led them to be in this waiting room/facility, yet all the actors work together seamlessly. They present their own inner fears, thoughts and emotions beautifully without pulling focus from the main dialogue. This is a testament to their craft and the direction of the piece.

I hugely commend Lawrence Boothman, Andro Crespo, Michael Skellern, PK Taylor, Daniel Dowling, Brendan O’Rourke and Will Bryant for the opening scene. Their performance levels are very high and it perfectly sets the framework for the rest of the production. When the waiting few are joined by the characters portrayed by Jeremy Gagan, Gethin Alderman and Edward Killingback the play again moves up a notch and the action of the piece becomes more intense.

The performance is reminiscent of the great plays of the ancient Greeks by having a lot of action offstage, which is continually referred to yet not seen by the audience. The play accentuates this by using chilling sound effects, heightening the dramatic effect.

The play runs for 90 minutes and is really pacey, there aren’t any moments when you aren’t fully engaged. The script is superbly written so the actors can have great fun in delivering their lines knowing that they will pack a punch. The direction is slick and tight enabling each actor to have their moment in the limelight.

A special mention must go out to Jeremy Gagan as the Old Jew. He does not speak one word in the piece, yet is totally fascinating to watch. When he is finally called to the offstage room, his exit is superb. 

The final scene between the prince and the Doctor, although only minutes long, is executed flawlessly, with both actors working together to bring a dramatic climax to the production. Edward Killingback is a perfect prince, guilt-ridden, aristocratic and charming.

This piece is utterly watchable, incredibly powerful and sadly awakens the fear that history may repeat itself. I would happily watch any of the performers again and I am keen to see more collaborations between Willmott (Director) and Creed (Producer). I would definitely watch the production a second time, there is so much action (although subtlely performed) that I’m sure I would notice new things.

This show HAS to transfer, the run has pretty much sold out, and more people NEED to watch this show.

4 and a Half stars

Review by Faye Stockley

In the detention room of a Vichy police station in 1942, eight men have been picked up for questioning but none are told why they are held, or when they can leave. At first, their hopeful guess is that only their identity papers will be checked – but as each man is removed for interrogation, some are set free, some are never seen again, and the stakes rise for those who remain…

A haunting examination of the cold, bureaucratic efficiency of evil – and the shared humanity that might overcome it.

INCIDENT AT VICHY
by Arthur Miller.

Directed by Phil Willmott. Designed by Georgia de Grey. Lighting by Robbie Butler.
Sound Design and Music by Theo Holloway. Costume Design by Penn O’Gara.
Produced by Anita Creed Productions for The Phil Willmott Company and The Steam Industry.
Cast: Gethin Alderman, Lawrence Boothman, Will Bryant, James Boyd, Andro Crespo, Daniel Dowling, Jeremy Gagan, Timothy Harker, Edward Killingback. Brendan O’Rourke. Michael Skellern. PK Taylor. Henry Wyrley-Birch.

Tuesday, 28 March – Saturday, 22 April 2017
http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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