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Broken Glass review at Watford Palace Theatre – ‘a resonant and urgent revival’

Michael Matus and Michael Higgs in Broken Glass at Watford Palace Theatre. Photo: The Other Richard Michael Matus and Michael Higgs in Broken Glass at Watford Palace Theatre. Photo: The Other Richard
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Feeling perhaps more chilling in the era of Twitter and Trump than it did at its 1994 debut, Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass explores the shattering, exhausting impact of spiralling global events on the individual.

Directed by Richard Beecham, the production gradually but grippingly sheds light on the case of Jewish-American Sylvia, literally paralysed with anxiety as she obsessively reads about the unfolding horrors of Kristallnacht.

Stepping into the role of Sylvia at extremely short notice, Amy Marston gives a superb turn, letting every unspoken inner feeling shine through with longing glances and soundless screams. Michael Matus, meanwhile, skilfully captures the complications of her impotent, self-loathing, conservative husband Phillip, a tightly wound spring pressed flat by the weight of his hang-ups, virtually vibrating with repressed emotion. Pitched between them, Michael Higgs is compassionate but conflicted as the couple’s doctor, Hyman, his ego drawing him in well over his head.

Simon Kenny’s striking design bisects the stage with a diagonal wall of tarnished mirrors. A rotating central section allows scenes to shift with unfussy elegance, and – when Phillip’s emotions finally unravel – to spin dizzyingly beneath a storm of glaring halogens. Cellist Susie Blankfield provides a live accompaniment, wringing terrific emotion from Ed Lewis’ minimal score, breaking up the action with cascades of vertiginously plunging notes.

Sombre, stark, and performed with consummate skill, the music – like the production as a whole – is simultaneously an unsettling reflection of our times, and a moving reminder of the events of 80 years ago.

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Resonant and urgently relevant revival of Arthur Miller’s intricately-crafted psychological drama