The Hook

A Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Royal & Derngate co-production
Written by Arthur Miller
Adapted for the stage by Ron Hutchinson
Directed by James Dacre
Liverpool Everyman
Till 25th July 2015

Reviewed by Ritchie Hunter

Marty (Jamie Sives) is a bit of a hothead, but his heart is in the right place. He rails against the corrupt way in which employers, the Mafia and his own union leaders run the New York docks after the Second World War. Marty's workmates come to see him as their unofficial leader, someone they can trust in a world where they are getting screwed; although this faith seems a bit odd when you consider that Marty is all over the place, in his mind, in his jobs, in his family and in his politics.

The things that happen here to Marty and his mates were written at a time when the “Common Man” didn't get much coverage. Since then much of this has become clichéd; the worker, down on his luck, standing up for his rights. Better conditions are won in this play by making deals; when in reality it's been the organised struggle and strike action of workers that's brought improvements.

It's a wonder of creativity how all the set needed for a play can be crafted into one space, and here everything (designed by Patrick Connellan) is finely tuned to fit together. When all the cast – and I counted over 25 - were moving about it reminded me of old images of dock areas. Maybe that was why a crashing noise was used to signal a change of scene. But it also led, at times, to too much happening at once to take in.

The ability to recreate the New York drawl is obviously useful in these situations, and some carried it off better than others.

The story behind this play is of principles being undermined by the powerful. Arthur Miller wrote the script for film in the early 1950s. He and Elia Kazan, who had agreed to direct it, approached Columbia Pictures, but were told that they needed to change the depiction of corrupt union leaders to one of communists. Miller then fell out with Elia Kazan over the latter's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and refused to get involved in the making of 'On the Waterfront'.

In the year when we celebrate the stand of the Liverpool Dockers against casualisation, it's good to see the Everyman supporting The Casa. There is definitely an artistic and innovative side to campaigning, as the dockers showed in their creative pursuance of international workers' solidarity. This collaboration does credit to the Everyman, and in the Foyer are hung classic banners depicting this struggle.

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