Posted: 23rd March 2015

Incident at Vichy by Arthur Miller was Tom Carroll’s excellent choice for this year’s revived Festival of Drama. With seventeen parts, most of them substantial, it offered the perfect vehicle for his committed and talented troupe of actors. It is also a profoundly disturbing play. Set in Vichy France in 1942 during the Nazi occupation, nine men and a fifteen-year-old boy have been rounded up for questioning about their identity papers. The shadow of the gas chambers hovers over their anxious efforts to find out why they are there and what they have in common.

Apart from their ‘otherness’, which threatens their existence, this group, particularly the psychiatrist Leduc, the artist Labeau, the communist Bayard, the actor Monceau, the businessman Marchand and the aristocrat Von Berg, offers several representative perspectives on the horror of anti-semitism and racial prejudice. As happens so often in Miller’s plays, the issue of morality is unravelled by questioning and re-fabricated by human action, leading to an unlikely, life-affirming denouement.

Although I am reluctant to single out performances from what was a terrific ensemble success, the first half of the play depended greatly on fine performances by Shane Hogan as Lebeau and Rory McMahon as Bayard. Towards the second half of the play, the burden was carried magnificently by Dan Gannon and Jonathan Courtney as Leduc and Von Berg. Keenan Crutchley was outstanding in the role of the morally ambivalent Major and David Tunney was menacing as the Professor. Great credit is due to Tom Carroll for taking on the challenge of this powerful play and for managing his talent so well.

The Festival is back!

Mr Martin Wallace

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