Review – The Man Who Had All The Luck, Donmar Warehouse

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Do the Whingers believe in “luck”?

Well after some of their recent theatrical sorties, not much: Phil felt blessed by his inability to attend Marilyn and Ella with Andrew last week, then kicked himself when he realised what a stinker he’d missed.

On the other hand, letting Andrew persuade him to see Legal Fictions was a very bad decision on Phil’s part.

Certainly people do have some control over their fortunes: chess master Garry Kasparov certainly believes Dimitry Medvedev created his own good fortune in the Russian Election.

But to get back to the more crucial top of the Whingers – do they create their own misfortunes simply by making poor choices? Are they creators of their own destinies? Or are they just plain “unlucky”? Must their few pieces of good fortune ultimately be paid for?

These questions and more prompted much chin stroking after seeing Arthur Miller’s The Man Who Had All the Luck at the Donmar last night.

The set-up:

David Beeves (Andrew Buchan, Jem Hearne in Cranford!) is a Midwestern automobile mechanic who can’t believe his luck: everything seems to go right for him. He feels almost blessed with good fortune while things seem to go wrong for everyone around him (this is during the Depression, so misery is quite widespread, even by the Whingers’ standards). But why does fate always seem to deliver up the best of everything for him?

Sometimes Miller seems to be saying people create their fortune by being good and working hard, yet David’s brother Amos (Felix Scott) has devoted his life to a goal and is brutally denied his dream (his American Dream, even) and his defeat leads to some very impressive wet, flowing tears which Phil at one stage worried might set him off too.

But what exactly is Miller getting at? Well, we’re not sure. Just when you think you know, there’s a twisty-turny plot twist which makes you change your mind.

Anyway, that probably means that the play is “about” something or “explores issues” of something. It certainly prompted a great deal of discussion in the pub afterwards. Which is a good thing.

It was also marvellously engaging with some very good performances indeed and the Whingers unhesitatingly returned after the interval (which is only 40 minutes into the 2½ hour show) and were glad they did as the second act contained some very fine scenes indeed, a good deal of highly creditable acting and some rather good writing.

Nevertheless, the Whingers were somewhat in awe of the couple who left after a mere 15 minutes of the first act – this would easily be a record for the Whingers and they doff their caps and say “respeck” to this pioneering mystery couple who disappeared into the night.

Other highlights included an appearance by a gorgeous off-white thirties car which descends from the flies for the second scene. Despite the convincing performances by the actors it’s a big distraction. Both Whingers (neither of whom have any interest in things automotive, and no, we have no idea what make it is) admired the beauty of the vehicle – it’s the biggest scene-stealing by a car on the stage since the Palladium’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Phil’s only disappointment was that there was no on-stage feeding for his thesis but there was an awful lot of chat and detail about mink feed (David sets up a mink farm). Phil just knew that Andrew would be squirming in the circle worrying about the welfare of the mink (the Whingers sat in separate areas of the theatre due to an administrative error on Andrew’s part. Well that’s what he claims). Phil just knew that after the show (as with Equus) he would have to remind Andrew that it was only a play.

Phil was sitting behind the fragrant (everything iss relative; remember that Phil wasn’t sitting next to Andrew) Jeffrey Archer. Now there is a man who created his own luck, and nearly got away with it. Is he lucky or unlucky? Discuss.


A highly convivial evening so thank you Katy, City Slicker, Natasha, Chris for your company and critical analysis skills which raised the level of the post-show conversation to a level which seemed to the Whingers almost perilously high.

2 Responses to “Review – The Man Who Had All The Luck, Donmar Warehouse”

  1. Simon Treves Says:

    I love that when you click on Jeffrey Archer (above) you’re told “Alert! The URL is not valid and cannot be loaded”. The Lord (not Earl) is certainly not valid, but he most definitely is still loaded – I saw him buying a Green & Black’s ice cream only the other day…

  2. Sadly for others seeking to reproduce your experience, Simon, I’ve now fixed the link. But your excellent gag remains for posterity.

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