Review: The Hook at The Liverpool Everyman Theatre

Posted on 3 July 2015
By Chris High
  • Share:

Transferring the hustle and bustle of one of the largest thriving docks in history from the big screen to the stage is no mean feat, but with this inaugural production of Arthur Miller’s screenplay of The Hook – currently running at The Liverpool Everyman – what director James Dacre and his creative team have managed is nothing short of miraculous.

From the off, the audience are transported back in time to 1950s America; a period of unmitigated fear, trepidation and a time where trust was at a premium and loyalties were tested to the maximum thanks to Senator Joe McCarthy and his Reds Under the Bed paranoia. That and the racketeers who had their corrupt fingers in so many pies it would have taken an army of bakers to have kept them satisfied thanks to the vast revenues being brought into every dock and harbour in the country.

Miller refused to make his dock-ruling gangsters Communists and, as a result, the movie was shelved for fear of being too controversial. The playwright was later called before the HUAC panel to denounce other communists and his relationship with the great movie director, Eli Kazan, lay in tatters, such was his determination to have things told as they were and not how the powers-that-be would have them seen to have been.

If any of this sounds familiar with regards to what’s happening today, then the man who has adapted the play from something like 40 existing original manuscripts, Ron Hutchinson, has fully succeeded because if The Hook tells us anything, it is that the destructive corrosiveness of power is a disease not easily eradicated, either by effort or time, thereby making the play as prescient and relevant today as it would it have been – had it ever made the cinemas – back in the day.

What transpires through two magical hours on the stage of The Liverpool Everyman, is nothing short of being a somewhat disturbing yet nevertheless powerful underlining of how greed motivates and that it takes just one individual to stand up in its face for the whole machine to falter.

In this instance that individual is Marty Ferrara, played with fantastic verve and vigour by Jamie Sives who manages to bring out his character’s impetuousness and fire-cracker temper in all the right ways, yet also delivers such a sense of allegiance towards his fellow workers it becomes a heart warming portrayal of a man torn between caring for his friends and surviving for the sake of his family. Sives is a regular fireball of frustrated energy and his is a performance of the highest calibre.

Indeed the cast – and, thanks to the Community Ensemble there occasionally are a great many people on the stage at one time, which all adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere of the piece brilliantly – are faultless to a man and woman. As Theresa, Marty’s long suffering wife, Susie Trayling could easily stumble into stereotypical caricature but, with great dexterity, swerves such pitfalls and instead provides a performance that is every bit as powerful as that as Sives’. Sean Murray as beleagured “Charge Hand” Rocky and Jem Wall as self-serving, easily corruptible Farragut both pack different but equal emotional punches, whereas superb as the beleaguered Union boss Louis is Joe Alessi, who’s deceitful self-preservation is a delight to watch unravel.

In all, The Hook is everything one might expect from an Arthur Miller portrayal of life as he saw it; controversial, morally rooted, significant and – above all – absorbing and thought provoking. It is also a production that will come to rank amongst the finest in his canon of great plays, thanks in part to the determination of all those involved.

The Hook
Liverpool Everyman Theatre
July 1 – July 25
Director: James Dacre
Producer: Liverpool Everyman Playhouse & Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Cast Includes: Jamie Sives, Susie Trayling, Joe Alessi, Ewart James Walters, Paul Rattray, Jem Wall, Tim Chipping, Sean Murray, Sean Jackson, Sean Murray, Tom Canton
Running Time: 2 hours
PR Rating: *****