The Last Yankee

October 3, 2015 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆     Simmering emotion

Summerhall: Fri 2 – Sat 3 October 2015
Review by Hugh Simpson

Rapture Theatre’s touring production of Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee has an emotional depth and psychological realism that help the production to overcome occasional false steps.

This is one of Miller’s final plays and seems largely unconcerned with niceties of plot, instead focusing on the interplay of character. Themes of mental health, human relationships, success and failure and the dying of the American Dream are elegantly explored in what is a delicately limpid chamber piece.

Pauline Turner and Jane McCarry. Photo: Paul Kozinski

Pauline Turner and Jane McCarry. Photo: Paul Kozinski

Two men – one financially successful, the other less so – are visiting their hospitalised wives, both of whom are suffering from depression. Much of what happens, rather than advancing the narrative, has an emotional truth and symbolic power. While it does not all come off, this production gets a great deal of this right.

David Tarkenter turns in a particularly impressive, nuanced performance as Leroy Hamilton, the ‘last yankee’ of the title, a man who has rejected his supposed inheritance as a descendent of one of America’s founding fathers to work as a carpenter. His lack of drive and ambition is as much of a mystery to his wife Patricia as her depression is to him.

Pauline Turner’s Patricia is another believably brittle, conflicted performance, and the couple’s interactions have the real ring of truth to them. In particular, the frustrations of an intelligent woman sidelined by society’s expectations are clearly apparent.

no respect for rank or status

While mother-of-seven Patricia struggles with disappointment and lack of financial success, her childless fellow patient Karen Frick has wanted for nothing. This contrast could seem artificial, but cleverly conveys how mental health problems have no respect for rank or status.

The Fricks do not come across so effectively here, with both Stewart Porter as John and Jane McCarry as Karen taking some time to settle into their roles. There are some initial problems with accents, and there is never same depth to their relationship. However, McCarry in particular comes into her own later on, with a raw, heartbreaking quality.

The lack of focus in the Fricks’ relationship is occasionally evident in the production as a whole.  Lisa Sangster’s set is cleverly designed for a touring production but still looks too big for the tight confines of Summerhall’s Red Lecture Theatre; this is mirrored by the direction of Michael Emans, which is largely assured but with moments that seem less carefully thought out.

To a non-American audience, there are nuances to the class and social background, from the title downwards, that are lost, and the production at times seems unsure on how to convey these.

There is a great deal of psychological and emotional truth here, however, with results that are emotionally weighty and thought-provoking.

Running time 1 hour 10 mins (no interval)
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Friday 2 and Saturday 3 October 2015
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinee Saturday at 3.00 pm
Details and tickets from http://www.summerhall.co.uk/2015/the-last-yankee/

The Last Yankee on tour:
Fri 2 – Sat 3 Oct Edinburgh
Summerhall
0131 560 1580 Book online
Thurs 8 Oct Ayr
The Gaiety
01292 288 235 Book online
Fri 9 – Sat 10 Oct Perth
Studio Theatre
01738 621031 Book online
Tue 13 Oct Bathgate
Regal Theatre
01506 630 085 Book online
Fri 16 Oct Lanark
Memorial Hall
01555 667 999 Book online
Sat 17 Oct Cumbernauld
Cumbernauld Theatre
01236 732 887 Book online
Tue 20 Oct Selkirk
Bowhill House Theatre
01750 222 204 Book online
Wed 21 Oct Motherwell
Motherwell Theatre
01698 403120 Book online
Thurs 22 Oct Giffnock
Eastwood Park Theatre
0141 577 4956 Book online
Fri 23 Oct Musselburgh
The Brunton Theatre
0131 6652240 Book online
Sat 24 Oct Stirling
Tolbooth
01786 274000 Book online
Tue 27 Oct New Galloway
Catstrand
01644 420374 Book online
Wed 28 Oct Paisley
Paisley Arts Centre
0300 300 1210 Book online
Thurs 29 Oct Livingston
Howden Park Centre
01506 777666 Book online
Fri 30 Oct Irvine
Harbour Arts Centre
01294 274059 Book online
Sat 31 Oct East Kilbride
East Kilbride Arts Centre
01355 261000 Book online
Mon 2 Nov Aberdeen
Lemon Tree
01224 642230 Book online
Tue 3 Nov Dunfermline
Carnegie Hall
01383 602302 Book online
Wed 4 Nov Peebles
Eastgate Theatre
01721 725777 Book online
Thurs 5 Nov Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234 234 Book online
Sat 7 Nov Kilmarnock
Palace Theatre
01563 554900 Book online

ENDS

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