Ensemble Theatre, July 24


Acting is ultimately a physical art, and Zoe Terakes expresses teenaged Catherine’s fretfulness by twisting her limbs around her body like a vine choking a tree, or by anxiety and confusion racing across her face like black clouds chasing grey across a stormy sky. This startling performance shifts the play’s weight, so it becomes slightly less Eddie’s tragedy; slightly more Catherine’s discordant transition to womanhood.

Anthony Gooley and Janine Watson, and, top, Zoe Terakes. Photos: Prudence Upton.

Even if one accepts that Arthur Miller’s 1955 play about love, dreams and betrayal is not quite in the Death of a Salesman and The Crucible league (and this potent production questions that premise), it’s undeniable that blood pulses through every character Miller has hewn from the Brooklyn waterfront and pruned from the Sicilian countryside. Terakes’ Catherine’s opens the floodgates on a complex gush of emotions, from sweet, girlish vulnerability to womanly determination.

Iain Sinclair’s bare-stage production (which originated at the Old Fitz) has now landed this commendable opportunity to touch the Ensemble’s audience. It strips the play to a raw nakedness in which the characters’ desperation finds harmony with Miller’s mix of vaulting poeticism and snapping dialogue, while Sinclair adroitly conducts the sudden dynamic blazes and tempo changes of his pared-back cast.

Anthony Gooley. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Anthony Gooley’s Eddie is a wounded lion, growling dangerously as Catherine, his niece and the love and lust of his life, writhes from his grasp. Were Eddie no more than a pugnacious boor there would be no play, and Gooley ensures we share his pain as his self-worth trickles away; as he taps his wedding ring on the back of a wooden chair like the ticking time-bomb he is.

Scott Lee’s Rodolpho has the charm overflowing, so Catherine feels the first splash of a love that, when it strikes Eddie, catalyses only hate. Janine Watson’s Beatrice, Eddie’s kind, frustrated wife, initially seems too small amid the gales of Terakes and Gooley, but her astutely measured performance rises to a frightening pitch. Similarly David Soncin leaves himself headroom as the self-possessed Marco, who makes such a primal statement with the chair-lifting contest. David Lynch’s accent is the least convincing, but his performance gathers assurance as Alfieri, Miller’s audacious amalgam of Greek chorus, prophetic Macbeth witch, film-noir narrator and pragmatic lawyer.

The actors could project more when facing upstage, but otherwise this white-knuckle ride should not be missed.

Until August 24.