In the first of a series of essays on the life and plays of Arthur Miller, Sir Richard Eyre director of The Crucible on Broadway sings the praises of the crowning jewel in his theatre career. For those forever moved by the confessional utterings of John Proctor – ‘I have given you my soul; leave me my name!’ – seeking a deeper understanding of Miller’s heroes, or those yet to discover his works, this five-part programme for BBC Radio 3 offers thoughtful reflections on a monumental figure in literary history.
Incorporating aspects of the known – his appearance at the House Un-American Activities Committee following his marriage to Marilyn Monroe – to overlooked accounts of Bernard Gimble’s unforgettable reaction to Death of A Salesman, Eyre recalls Miller’s stories among his striking remarks in their conversations. Miller’s eminence, requiring no justification, is only enhanced as a listener obtaining a certain familiarity with the brilliance of his attitude and intellect as witnessed by Eyre.
Initially directing the The Crucible in Edinburgh in 1970, and subsequently moving the young Tony Blair after a speech at Fettes College to declare his intention to become an actor, Eyre marvels at the fearlessness of ‘a great, glorious raconteur’. His personal intimacy with Miller offers a unique, portrayal of the man behind four ground-breaking plays, two of which continue to frequently transform stages around the world. The honour of holding the position of director of The Crucible is evident in Eyre’s careful recollection of Miller’s quips, hanging onto the every word of the master he observed.
Sending shockwaves across the Atlantic to influence the work of British writers, including John Osborne, Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker, Miller’s plays tackled significant American themes of his time: individuality in society, morality and freedom. In particular, Eyre asserts the importance of Miller’s plays today with an energy and gravity felt by audiences of contemporary productions, continuing to acknowledge the footprint of art in society.
Staging Arthur Miller allows actors, playwrights and directors alike to build a public portrayal of Miller, getting to the heart of his character and motives. Fans of Miller can expect much more this season as BBC Radio 3, 4 and 4 Extra continue to celebrate 100 years since the birth of this outstanding twentieth-century playwright.