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The Man Who Had All The Luck at The King’s Head Theatre – Review

Jamie Chandler, Chloe Walshe, Alex Warner in The Man Who Had All the Luck at King's Head Theatre, photography by George Linfield
Jamie Chandler, Chloe Walshe, Alex Warner in The Man Who Had All the Luck at King’s Head Theatre, photography by George Linfield

The Man Who Had All The Luck was probably never originally envisaged to be performed in the round. It’s a bold move, with varying degrees of success – it’s one of those productions that has certain sections of the audience having to either twist uncomfortably or otherwise accept a severely restricted view for that particular section of dialogue. The play is sub-titled ‘A Fable’, and questions why it is that certain people do indeed seem to enjoy disproportionately good fortune. To what extent do we have control over circumstances? When it is preferable to fight? When it is preferable to accept our lot in life?

There are just two disappointing elements. Firstly, the ending of the play is revealed some time before the end. At the end of the penultimate scene, the final page of dialogue, complete with stage directions, appears on stage in huge lettering, large enough for all but those with severe sight problems to see clearly. I could, of course, have chosen to ignore it, but with such bold and clear print, I was curious to see what it was – it could have been anything from a Dear John letter to a department store guide. But why publish a spoiler at all?

Secondly, some of the music used in the show is distracting. It’s unnatural and unnecessary, and I couldn’t help thinking of shows like The Great British Bake Off where the music swells and the audience knows that a ‘dramatic’ moment is about to happen. But here, the text is so rich and deep that it is better performed unaccompanied – throughout. The tension (or the excitement, or the suspense) of a scene builds of its own accord through this skilled cast, who more than do this remarkable play by Arthur Miller justice.

“Arthur Miller is Arthur Miller,” mused a fellow theatregoer at the interval. Certainly in the role of Pat (Keith Hill), some of the same characteristics of the good-hearted but fundamentally flawed father figure appear in some of Miller’s later works, most notably Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and Joe Keller in All My Sons. Here, though, the main protagonist is the younger son, 21-year-old David (an engaging Jamie Chandler). His chemistry with childhood sweetheart Hester (Chloe Walshe) isn’t exactly solid, though I must hasten to add this is commensurate with the play’s narrative rather than a deficiency in performance. Chandler’s portrayal of David is sometimes passionate, often insecure, but always very, very human.

Also worthy of note in terms of excellent performance is Peter Dineen, who fulfilled so many roles the programme simply lists him as ‘Man’. He perfectly captured the essence of every one of his many characters, whether a Bible-bashing stern father, ‘Mr Falk’, or an affable Irish talent scout, ‘Augie Belfast’. Alex Warner’s Gus was a gentle and confident antithesis to the vexed and unsure David, even if Warner ignored Miller’s stage direction for a ‘gentle German accent’ to one so strong it bordered on satire.

There haven’t been very many productions of The Man Who Had All The Luck over the years, relative to Arthur Miller’s other inspired works. If you, like me, enjoy Miller’s explorations with the struggle his main characters have with what legacy they leave behind and what it means to have a purposeful life, you’ll enjoy this. It was an engrossing and immersive experience, performed with the usual skill and professionalism audiences have come to expect from the King’s Head Theatre, and more uplifting than some of Miller’s other plays too: there’s a redemption of sorts for the tortured young man. Or is there? Either way, there’s a certain charm about this production. The evening flew by and I found it absorbing from start to finish.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Man Who Had All the Luck
A man is a jellyfish. The tide goes in and the tide goes out. About what happens to him, a man has very little to say.
Everything David Beeves touches turns to gold. He has a beautiful home and a loving wife, loyal friends and a thriving business. But as those around him trip and fall, David struggles to understand his fate. What if his Midas touch, like the flip of a coin or the pull of the tide, is nothing more than good luck? The Man Who Had All the Luck was Arthur Miller’s first play to be produced. Searching philosophical and vehemently political, in intimates so much that will take centre stage in his better-known work for decades to come. This revival in Miller’s centenary year will be the second production from End of Moving Walkway, whose critically acclaimed production of Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions last year was nominated for a What’s On Stage Award and two Off West End Awards.

The Man Who Had All the Luck
End of Moving Walkway
2nd – 26th September
at Kings Head Theatre London
http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/main.html

Saturday 5th September 2015

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