EVEN WITH the subject of Arthur Miller’s rarely seen play, and the paralysing fear experienced by his characters, there’s a whiff of a joke about it. A gypsy, a psychologist, a waiter, an actor, a painter, a Communist electrician, an Austrian prince and a businessman are not in a bar, but a police station in Vichy France. Each has been plucked somewhat randomly from the street.
The hope that this is merely a routine identity check becomes harder to sustain when they are joined by an elderly, bearded Jew. Even more so when a tense exchange between an officious “professor of racial anthropology” and a world-weary German army officer reveals that the checks involve detainees dropping their trousers to reveal whether they have been circumcised.
Written in 1964, this was Miller’s first attempt to take on the Holocaust. Perhaps if he hadn’t become so well
Daniel Dowling and Edward Killingback