Director: Michael Emans
Writer: Arthur Miller
Designer: Lisa Sangster
Reviewer: Amy Taylor
From the very beginning of Rapture Theatre’s The Last Yankee, there’s a sense that you’re watching an experiment in human nature. Performed in Summerhall’s Red Lecture Theatre, Michael Emans’ production, creates the feeling that the audience are watching Arthur Miller toy with our ideas of the American dream through themes of success, failure, disappointment and perhaps most importantly, class.
Starting in the waiting room of a State-run mental hospital, Leroy Hamilton (David Tarkenter) and John Frick (Stewart Porter) are two very different men, united by the major depressive illness that affects both of their wives. But as they reunite with their wives Patricia Hamilton (Pauline Turner) and Karen Frick (Jane McGarry) tensions bubble to the surface and societal, cultural and historical issues threaten to undo them all.
Undoubtedly, The Last Yankee is a timely production, as this month marks the centenary of Miller’s birth, but beyond this monumental anniversary, this production questions notions of self-worth and wealth, tying them together before ripping them apart in a blaze of raw anger and frustration. Hamilton and Frick are bound by illness, but their circumstances and their life experiences couldn’t be more different. Miller’s script is a rallying cry for the failure of the American dream, a eulogy for the lost generations who believed that they could do anything, be anything, all they needed was determination, only to find their lives stalled by the creeping shadow of capitalism.
Rapture Theatre’s revival of one of Miller’s final plays is an appropriate play in our age of austerity and under Emans’ direction, the cast, particularly McCarry as the timid Mrs Frick, excel. The Last Yankee handles mental health problems with refreshing honesty and integrity, just as it decries the rise of capitalism, it presents depression without prejudice and with the care that it deserves. Indeed, if Miller was taking aim at one thing, it’s the old America, the land of dreams, which is brilliantly realised by Lisa Sangster’s hospital set, which is dominated by a faded, but inescapable rendering of the stars and stripes. The message is clear; we cannot escape our pasts and our futures are uncertain.
A theatrical revival for our times, if not our society at large, The Last Yankee is a powerful reminder of the systems that imprison us all.
Reviewed on 2 October 2015 | Image: Contributed