Incident at Vichy at the Finborough Theatre review ****


Incident at Vichy

Finborough Theatre, 16th April 2017

I haven’t see that many productions at the Finborough but what I have seen there has been uniformly excellent. This was no exception.

This is an Arthur Miller play which premiered in 1964 and was prompted in part by a visit with his third wife, Inge Morath, to Mauthausen concentration camp near Salzburg and to the trial of some Auschwitz guards. It focusses on a group of male characters who have been rounded up and detained by a local police offer and a German military officer in Vichy France and are awaiting an inspection by a German doctor. Most of the characters are Jewish and they begin to discuss what may be about to happen. As the true horror of their situation becomes clearer their fears, appeals to rationality, desperation, denialism and ultimately their true humanity is explored with Miller’s characteristic incisiveness and intelligence. How was/is this allowed to happen and who was/is complicit in letting it happen?

There is sufficient plot and development to keep the audience gripped and emotionally engaged but the play ultimately revolves around the themes that are explored by this very diverse range of character viewpoints. Director Phil Wilmott and colleagues wisely opted for a non-naturalistic white room set to highlight these themes and the tiny Finborough stage with audience piled up in front was ideal in conveying the increasing desperation of the characters.

Unfortunately this has been and gone but it would be a crying shame if London had to wait another 50 years (for that is how long it took) for this to reappear. But it does lend further credence to a couple of golden rules in theatre – firstly, if anything takes your fancy at the Finborough take the plunge, and secondly, always check out any production of an Arthur Miller play.