The Man Who Had All the Luck
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 14 Feb
Arthur Miller’s first play to be mounted on Broadway closed after only four performances, and was barely revived until a successful production in 2002 led to renewed interest in the work. While undeniably flawed it provides a fascinating glimpse into the themes Miller would go on to successfully explore in All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, namely the hollowness of the American Dream and notions of responsibility to the family and society.
The title character is David Beeves, a young car mechanic whose seeming incredible good fortune leads to his overcoming obstacles that have defeated those around him. Unable to acknowledge his own industry and tenacity, he is driven demented by feelings of guilt at the random nature of his success.
The play certainly has the feel of an early work, being drawn-out and a tad repetitious, with a couple of unnecessary passages of exposition hammering Miller’s point home just in case we didn’t get it. But John Dove’s production is distinguished by fine acting from the cast: the scene in which the family awaits the arrival of a baseball talent scout is particularly tense and moving. And Philip Cumbus really rings the changes in the lead role, plummeting from familial rock of stability to twitching nervous wreck as his shame at his own success drives him to the edge of insanity.