In Broken Glass Arthur Miller addresses the fate of Jews in Nazi Germany through the reactions of one New York Jewish family to the news of Kristallnacht in November 1938. Haunted by graphic news images coming out of Germany, Sylvia Gellburg takes to her bed, apparently paralysed, while her husband Phillip struggles to assimilate and ignore undercurrents of antisemitism he encounters as the only Jew working at a real estate company. Dr Harry Hyman is called to diagnose Sylvia’s affliction and the Gellburgs’ uneasy relationship fractures.
As Watford Palace Theatre gets set to revive Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, JR’s arts editor Judi Herman spoke to the team behind the production. The powerful play details the reactions of a New York Jewish family to the news of Kristallnacht coming out of Germany in November 1938 – a horrific night that sees its 80th anniversary this year. Listen in as Charlotte Emerson and Michael Matus, who play the couple at the heart of the play, read an extract recorded especially for JR OutLoud. Plus hear from the production’s director, Richard Beecham, and actor Clara Francis, who tells the moving story of how her great-grandparents were caught up in the violence of Kristallnacht.
Photo by Richard Lakos
Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass runs Thursday 1 – Saturday 24 March. 7.30pm, 2.30pm (various days, check website for details). £15-£24.50. Watford Palace Theatre, WD17 1JZ. https://watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
From the moment Janet Suzman, as Rose, appeared dressed all in black, sitting on a single white bench on an empty stage, the audience was gripped.
Rose was sitting shiva, and as her story unfolded over the next two hours, recounting her journey from a Ukrainian shtetl through all the vicissitudes of a Jewish 20th Century, she sat shiva repeatedly. Each time – for a parent, a child, a husband, victims of the repeated manifestations of antisemitism – a slender shower of sand descending from a hole in the roof of the stage was the only visual accompaniment to Rose’s narrative.
“There is no more demanding role in the canon than Rose,” declared Richard Beecham, director of the first UK revival of Martin Sherman’s award-winning play, which premiered at the National Theatre in 1999.
This one-actor tour de force about persecution, displacement and survival stars Dame Janet Suzman in what Beecham describes as an “extraordinary role for an older actress” and runs at HOME, Manchester, until Saturday 10 June. “Older chaps get the parts,” he explained when he and Suzman spoke to the press prior to the play’s opening. She agreed that there were too few roles for older actresses and interjected with a wry smile: “I can understand why Glenda Jackson said ‘bugger it – I’ll play King Lear’.”