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A second reviewing of The Hook by Arthur Miller at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

An unexpected availability last night left me back at the Royal & Derngate for not only a second helping of The Hook but also its post show talk. I confess I love a post show talk, even if I haven't yet been brave enough to ask a question at one. Other people always seem to have more interesting questions and I also tend to take a sleep on it to think of relevant ones in any case.

In hindsight however, I should have asked about thoughts on development between the previews and the end product that I saw on my second viewing. Having seen the final preview exactly a week before, it was quite amazing to see the alterations to the show I had seen then, both subtle and in one case quite a revelation.

Although I didn't dwell on the negatives in my review at the time (I leave the criticism to them "professional" critics), also it being a preview it was wrong to do so. I was amazed to see how pretty much all of them I had spotted had been addressed. It's true to say that most were tech moments of issue. The second viewing saw no alarmingly writhing safe as it tried its best not to go back down the trap. There was also no moment where the stage crew were starkly visible removing that step ladder. It was indeed a triumph of building a perfect form on the back of the previews and for the first time it made it quite clear to me as just a paying punter how important they are to the director and his team.

There were other little moments that I saw as well, for me I felt that Joe Alessi as Louis had suitably toned down the ballot antics a notch, making it less comical and therefore that bit more powerful. Also unless my memory is completely failing me, I was sure there was a scene missing involving Jamie Sives (Marty) and Sean Aydon (with the baseball).

The big revelation though was the ending. The final scene which I had felt at the time was a tad on the clumsy side, with it leaving an awkward few moments of darkness as the cast assembled to take their bow, had been cut altogether. It did perhaps leave it finishing spectacularly suddenly (although the original was still quite sudden), but it was however a much smoother and professional presentation. An excellent evolution from preview to main performances.

The Q&A was once again excellently informative as director James Dacre and a selection of the cast (including the wonderfully Scottish and quite fidgety Jamie Sives) offered their thoughts on a number of very good questions from the audience. There was "How do you remember your lines?" question as someone who will remain nameless was happy about. There were however a number that offered interesting insights into the development of the piece. We learnt that in all of Miller's papers on the piece the screenplay ended with the same ballot results of the actual story. We also learnt that there were many different endings offered, and that the team took the deliberate decision to use the ambiguous version. This was deliberately to engender post show discussion. It did this, as myself and a few others in the crowd had already discussed the rather unclear ending before the Q&A. I think we all had different hopes for what lay ahead for Marty and that is a credit to Miller's piece and James Dacre's production that it truly stimulated this.


My original review of The Hook can be found here: The Hook Review

Performance reviewed: Monday 15th June, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

The Hook runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 27th June, 2015 before touring.

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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