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Based partly on information collected by historian and broadcaster Studs Terkel, partly on his own experiences, this is Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic depiction of the 1929 Wall Street crash and the Great Depression.

It follows threads the decline of the fictional Baum family through documentary style snippets from the mouths of a host of other characters.

Intermittently narrated by one of the lucky bankers who had the foresight to sell out in time, it offers glimpses of how the economic collapse affected everyone from the richest to the poorest, from hobo to manufacturer, from student to financier.

But by taking such a wide view, Miller sacrifices involvement with the once wealthy, now bankrupt Baums as Rose Baum (Issy Van Randwyck) pawns first her jewellery and then her even more precious piano in a vain attempt to keep the bailiffs from the door.

Director Phil Wilmott emphasises the plays topicality by framing it within the walls of a private view of period photographs, and although it lacks the power and focus of his best work, Miller’s heartfelt account of a country in financial free-fall (substantially reworked after its 1980 Broadway premiere) still resonates.

Finborough, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED
Tube:  Earl’s Court
Until April 21

- Louise Kingsley


The American Clock - theatre review
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