Theatre Review: Broken Glass at the Vaudeville Theatre

Emotions bubble under the surface in Arthur Miller’s award-winning drama of love and hatred

Following a sell-out run at the Tricycle theatre Arthur Miller’s Olivier award-winning drama Broken Glass tells the story of Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg in Brooklyn, 1938.

Their life as aspirational New York Jews is thrown into turmoil as Sylvia’s growing awareness of Hitler’s anti-Semitic activities in Germany, and her increasingly dysfunctional relationship with her husband, cause the onset of an hysterical paralysis which leaves Sylvia wheelchair bound.

The local doctor Harry Hyman is called in and so develops a relationship that has devastating consequences.

The simple, austere staging allows this production to be all about the acting and the stellar cast give knock-out performances.

Antony Sher presents Philip as a man so desperate to assimilate that he rejects his own Jewishness - and consequently his wife - in order to be accepted into the American Dream.

Tara Fitzgerald gives an intelligent, wistful performance as Sylvia, bursting with inner strength and intelligence despite her physical limitations, and Stanley Townsend as Dr Hyman is magnetic.

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The burgeoning relationship between Hyman and Sylvia sizzles with undisclosed passion and a kinship that Phillip, fatally, cannot comprehend.

Miller shows us a world where fear dominates. But it is not just the fear of others that has paralysing consequences. In a world where “everyone is persecuted but you cannot find anyone doing the persecuting”, hatred of oneself is the most dangerous fear of all.

Essential viewing.

* Broken Glass is showing at the Vaudeville Theatre, in The Strand, WC2, until Saturday, December 10.