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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Danger: Memory!
Jermyn Street Theatre    Summer 2011

These two short and in some ways very uncharacteristic Arthur Miller plays from 1987 can be a revelation to those who think of Miller only as a political and social playwright, since they have a quiet, personal, almost Tennessee Williams-ish quality. 

And that discovery about a new side to Miller is the major attraction of this production, since director Ed Viney and his actors can do no more than hint at the depth and sensitivity of the scripts.

In 'I Can't Remember Anything' an older couple – she a rich widow, he her husband's best friend – face the irrelevance of old age, as he can't do the work that defined him and she is no longer needed as wife and mother. 

As memory and concentration fade, they can't even take much comfort from thoughts of the past, and yet they make it through an evening and make plans to meet again tomorrow. 

Director Viney guides Anna Calder-Marshall and David Burke to solid characterisations that nicely distinguish between their differing responses to the loss of their powers.

But what is missing is the play's elegiac tone, its love for the characters and admiration for their quiet heroism in carrying on.

The same sense of missing the point limits the power of the second play, 'Clara.' 

A man's daughter has been brutally murdered, and the shock has left him with a mental block about the name of the prime suspect. The detective in charge thinks the father feels guilty because he didn't keep his idealistic social worker daughter from associating with lowlifes, and tries to unblock him by making him face that guilt.

Ed Viney's error here lies in accepting the cop's theory, reducing the play to a simple police procedural, when Miller is looking much deeper.

The father inspired his daughter with the idealism and liberal values of his own youth, which he's lost, and the actual process of the play is his rediscovery of those feelings, which bond him to his daughter, allow him to grieve, and release the forgotten name. 

That concept of liberation through knowing who you really are connects this play to earlier Miller masterpieces like Death Of A Salesman and The Crucible, and missing it reduces the play's climax to a damp squib and allows Viney's production no more meaning than a shallow TV cop show. 

Rolf Saxon as the father and Roger Sloman as the cop do as they were directed, too rarely able to hint at a human drama beneath the whodunit.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Danger: Memory - Jermyn Street 2011