Review Roundup: Rachel Chavkin Directs AN AMERICAN CLOCK At The Old Vic
Visionary director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Hadestown) presents Arthur Miller's ground-breaking play about hope, idealism and a nation's unwavering faith in capitalism, opening at The Old Vic on 13 February, with previews from 4 February.
The American Clock turns, fortunes are made and lives are broken. In New York City in 1929, the stock market crashed and everything changed.
In an American society governed by race and class, we meet the Baum family as they navigate the aftermath of an unprecedented financial crisis. The world pulses with a soundtrack fusing 1920s swing and jazz with a fiercely contemporary sound, creating a backdrop that spans a vast horizon from choking high-rises to rural heartlands.
The production will celebrate the changing face and evolution of the American family by having three sets of actors in the roles of Moe, Rose and Lee Baum for each performance.
The cast includes: Amber Aga, Paul Bentall, Greg Bernstein, Clare Burt, Flora Dawson, Abhin Galeya, James Garnon, Fred Haig, Jyuddah Jaymes, Julie Jupp, Francesca Mills,Taheen Modak, Christian Patterson, Clarke Peters, Golda Rosheuvel, Abdul Salis, and Ewan Wardrop.
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Steve Dineen, City A.M.: Even the most dramatic scenes, such as water pouring down a stock exchange board, literally wiping out everyone's money, feel flat. A rotating stage filled with an ensemble of 20 jitterbugging actors is somehow lifeless, little more than 1920s-themed wallpaper.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: In director Rachel Chavkin's interpretation, each of the Baums is played by three actors. The idea is to suggest the challenges faced by successive waves of immigrants: she has spoken of how this approach might call to mind a quilt or a collage. But it's an innovation that can prove confusing, and at times the revolving stage feels cluttered.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: In a 20-strong ensemble there are striking contributions from Clarke Peters as the story's guileful narrator, Golda Rosheuvel as a fierce-willed agitator, Ewan Wardrop as a corporate boss tap-dancing his way to oblivion and Abdul Salis as a rueful southern cafe proprietor. Under Jim Henson's musical direction, the songs provide a cheerful counterpoint to the bleak action, and Ann Yee's choreography is beautifully disciplined without lapsing into the machine-like impersonality of big musicals. The play is as broad as it's long - which is a good three hours - but, while it's not one of Miller's greatest, it shows his enduring capacity to capture the state of a troubled nation.
John Nathan, Metro News: Scenes vault randomly from penniless people of New York to desperate farmers in Iowa. So American director Rachel Chavkin energises it all with a swirling, whirling production performed on a revolving stage and set to a jazzy score. Her big idea is to multiply by three the cast who play the Baums so the race of the play's family is no longer only Jewish but African-American and South Asian. Even armed with this knowledge, it can be hard to keep track of who is playing who.
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out London: Now revived at the Old Vic by all-round US visionary Rachel Chavkin, 'The American Clock' is still a pretty tough sell. But it's a tough sell that's frequently magnificent, and that also feels nauseatingly prescient. Its kaleidoscopic vision of an advanced society sleepwalking into an essentially self-inflicted disaster is certainly painfully relevant to Britain's current interests.
Matt Trueman, Variety: In the Old Vic's classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin ("Hadestown") tunes into the play's rhythms, and you feel the freeze of an economic slowdown. A show that starts with brokers counting their stocks ends with a nation watching the clock, waiting for something - anything - to give. It's as if money loses all meaning and time grinds to a stop. A decade after our own financial crash, "The American Clock" chimes ominously true.