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The Man Who Had All The Luck

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
The main reason we’re so gripped by Arthur Miller’s fables of the human soul is that his flawed heroes are damned by the consequences of their own mistakes. This early work is different. Here, David Beeves, the self-taught mechanic who becomes a runaway success story, isn’t up-ended by failure and divine retribution, only by his own guilt and self-torment at how he so effortlessly made it big.

John Dove’s rare revival of a play which itself bombed on its 1944 premiere treats Miller’s work not as some formative statement of a still developing talent, but as an undiscovered masterpiece. All of Miller’s hallmarks, after all, are inherent in a text which billows with the dangers of success as much as disappointment. As Beeves thrives, so everyone else is in a perennial downspin, with his wheelchair-bound war veteran boss mourning his days as a ladies man, while his brother looks set to have his big-league baseball dreams shattered. Increasingly terrified by his own good fortune, Beeves seems determined to will himself to his own downfall.

Shot through with a magical musical score more readily associated with Tennessee Williams, Dove shapes this most elegant of tragedies into something as inadvertently relevant right now as it was in post Depression America. Philip Cumbus’ initially bright-eyed Beeves is well-rounded enough to grow in both stature and sadness throughout, and there is some fine hang-dog humour from Greg Powrie as loveless mechanic Gus. It’s Beeves’ final words as he climbs the stairs to see his new born son and heir, though that reveals the terror of anyone who ever had it easy.

The Herald, January 20th 2009

ends

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