As The Old Vic celebrates 50 years of Arthur Miller, we are brought The American Clock, written in and first shown in 1980. Set in America in the 1930s at the start of the Great Depression, it captures the realization that the world they know is about to change drastically.
On a rotating stage, three sets of the characters face the audience, who are also positioned behind the stage. Perhaps a gimmick to make it seem slightly more interesting and captivating than the actual play is. Lacking any real plot, the play shows America’s downfall from the greed and lies of the rich through snapshots throughout the Great Depression, showing the extent of the economic disaster as it affects every kind of person.
With some musical numbers in the play by Jim Henson and Justin Ellinson to help to create the 1930s atmosphere that is slowly sinking further and further into misery (along with the audience).
Clarke Peters’ narration throughout helps to keep the audience captivated and some outstanding performances from the cast, keep the play interesting through its three-hour showtime. Though the play itself lacks a plot, it is easy to invest in the brief appearances of the characters within the show as the cast reappear as different characters.
Ewan Wardrop has a surprisingly captivating tap number in the second half, which injects some entertainment in the waning attention of the audience as the show drags on.
The play itself was never one of Arthur Miller’s strongest, however, still poignant to what is going on in today’s economy, the uncertainty and hopelessness of the characters can leave any audience member feeling drained after three hours.
I can understand the choice of the play as it is so relevant now, but sadly a stark reminder that some things never change over time.
Words by: Elana Joseph