The American Clock at The Old Vic | Review

These tickets were kindly gifted to me by The Old Vic, however I am under no obligation to review the show or discuss it.

I think it's clear from looking at my blog and social media that I'm more of a musicals person when it comes to theatre but my wonderful experience of seeing A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic last month had me intrigued as to whether I would enjoy plays more than I had imagined I would. So, when the theatre kindly invited me back recently to see their latest production, The American Clock, I couldn't say yes fast enough, especially once I'd done a little reading and found out it centres around the great depression, something that fascinated me during history lessons at school.

'For them the clock would never strike midnight, the dance and the music could never stop...'

The American Clock turns, fortunes are made and lives are broken. In New York City in 1929, the stock market crashed and everything changed.

In an American society governed by race and class, we meet the Baum family as they navigate the aftermath of an unprecedented financial crisis. The world pulses with a soundtrack fusing 1920s swing and jazz with a fiercely contemporary sound, creating a backdrop that spans a vast horizon from choking high rises to rural heartlands. 

Visionary director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Hadestown) presents Arthur Miller's ground-breaking play about hope, idealism and a nation's unwavering faith in capitalism. - The Old Vic 

I have to applaud the triple casting of the family that this play centres around, the Baum family made up of Rose, Moe and Lee. It was a clever way of adding something extra to what is a fairly lengthy show, with a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. I was particularly impressed by Clarke Peters performance, he had the audience glued to him whenever he spoke. It was Francesca Mills who has stuck in my mind though, her performance in all 8 roles she played within the show truly blew me away as she demonstrated how versatile an actress she is, each character was distinguishable from the previous. As it was with A Christmas Carol it meant a great deal to see a disabled actor on stage, I truly applaud The Old Vic who seem to be far more committed to diversity on stage than most theatres.

As for the set, the revolve truly stole the show. It's been a year since I last saw Les Mis and appreciated the beauty of a revolve so it was a treat to see it being used so creatively within this production, and so smoothly too. There wasn't any sign of a wobble as they danced on the revolve as it spun around, mimicking a clock.

I'm not sure whether this is down to me favouring musicals or an issue with the play itself but I really struggled with concentration throughout, it felt a little never ending at times. 2 hours 45 minutes is a long running time, even for some musicals, so I was predicting that I'd perhaps struggle with the length and it was definitely a problem. I felt as though there was a lot of script that could have been cut, there were long scenes that seemed to serve no purpose and led to nowhere. Whilst I appreciated how much I learnt about this era I was hoping for a little more of a structured plot, it began to feel like just a history lesson at times.

This is such an important piece of history though, something that should never be forgotten and therefore it belongs on stage. If you have an interest in the era and can handle a lengthy piece of theatre, then this might be the show for you. Unfortunately I just struggled to grasp what others have seen in the show, but I was truly blown away by the quality of acting within it. 

The access at The Old Vic is largely the same since I last visited. I was in the same wheelchair space (N6) with a brilliant, up close and clear view of the stage. The work to improve the access at the theatre, as well as increasing the number of ladies toilets, has well and truly begun and many parts of the theatre are currently shut off. Access for wheelchair users has not changed though, it is the experience of everyone else that is a little different whilst the work is taking place. There are temporary toilets just outside the theatre and the bar has been moved into the auditorium, everything has been so well organised and you'd never know the extent of the work going on behind the scenes. I really applaud how well The Old Vic are handling the situation. 

The American Clock is playing at The Old Vic until March 30th. Find out more about the audio described and captioned performances on their dedicated access page.

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