Theatre review: The Last Yankee
- Jordan Shaw
- 6 October 2015
Rapture Theatre celebrate Arthur Miller's birth with aplomb.
Split over three brick-print screens, the fractured flag of the USA looms like a spectre over Rapture's latest production. The distressed red, white, and blue contrasts sharply with the clinically beige set and stands as an ominous symbol of the central theme of The Last Yankee, a late Arthur Miller gem that addresses the destructive consequences of the chase for the American dream.
Presented as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, The Last Yankee animates its critique of American aspirationalism through the lives of two New England couples who have more in common than appearances suggest. In the waiting room of the mental hospital where their wives are interned, a strained conversation between successful businessman John Frick and working-class 'Swamp Yankee' Leroy Hamilton introduces a clash of lifestyles that exposes the hollow heart of America's cult of meritocracy.
The quiet venom of Miller's script is given room to breathe by the simplicity of the production. Michael Emans's light-handed direction is a perfect complement to the pithy dialogue and, combined with the plain and uncluttered set, serves to highlight the prodigious skills of his actors. Jane McCarry gives an excellent portrayal of Karen's skittish vulnerability, and Stewart Porter turns in a journeyman performance as blow-hard John Frick. But the highlight of the production is the interactions between the Hamiltons. Leroy's stony pragmatism is played with adroit nuance by David Tarkenter, while Pauline Turner skilfully captures the stifled frustration of his wife Patricia.
Subtle, well-paced, and engaging, The Last Yankee a nicely-crafted piece of theatre. If the production is perhaps little safe, it's driven by Miller's sharp, penetrating script and a host of strong performances. Celebrating the centenary of the writer's birth, Rapture Theatre's The Last Yankee is a solid revival of one of the Arthur Miller's most underrated plays.
Touring, 1 Oct–7 Nov.