This production of Miller’s unfilmed screenplay is an example of seriously joined-up thinking at BBC radio drama. Part of the Unmade Movies series, which has exhumed shelved screenplays by Pinter, it slots neatly into the season marking Miller’s 1915 birth. It also provides a fascinating prefix to BBC Radio 3’s A View from the Bridge, which had its provenance in The Hook.
Miller and director Elia Kazan took the script to Harry Cohn at Columbia Studios in 1951, but the project was dropped when Cohn asked that the corrupt dockyard union bosses, the malign influence in the story, should be made communists. A year later, Kazan identified fellow communist sympathisers from his youth to the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities, causing a falling-out with Miller. Two years on, Kazan filmed On the Waterfront, inspired by The Hook.
The Hook had never been performed until the Everyman Playhouse Liverpool’s production opened at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate in June. For the broadcast premiere, former Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Adrian Noble has opted for a mesmerising cinematic approach with a filmic use of music, and the radio adaptation, by Laurence Bowen, includes many of Miller’s film directions. These, along with much scene-setting, is narrated by David Suchet in a stupendous American accent which reverberates throughout.
Nigel Lindsay is unsavoury as the amoral union boss and Michael Feast plays gang boss Rocky as a pragmatist. The heart of the production lies with Elliot Cowan’s increasingly statuesque Marty Ferrera, who challenges the union hierarchy. Unusually for Miller – perhaps in deference to putative filmgoers – the ending is one of gentle optimism.