Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lucky Man

And so to the Donmar, with a party that included the West End Whingers and Cityslicker, for a preview of The Man Who Had All The Luck - which, we were forewarned by the posters, is a ‘fable by Arthur Miller.’

(Maybe it’s my inner cynic but when I see the words fable or parable used in relation to a play it usually sets alarm bells ringing).

David is a young mechanic with plans to marry childhood sweetheart Hester. He’s not particularly talented or intelligent, but he’s a nice enough guy, and for some reason fortune seems to smile on him. Though he has no formal training his repair business is doing well and his girlfriend’s hostile and controlling dad, a major impediment to their marriage, is conveniently taken out of the picture. Later when David buys a gas station, a motorway is, soon after, built alongside it. So, while his friends and brother contend with the various knocks and disappointments of their lives, everything appears to go right for David, to the point where he starts to feel that fate owes him a catastrophe. Indeed, he becomes completely fixated with this idea of himself as ‘lucky’, to the point where he is unable to derive any pleasure from the good things that life has given him.

The first half is unusually short and, as we gathered at the bar in the interval, we were unsure as to where the play was going (particularly in regards to a mysterious Austrian character who fortuitously shows up at David’s garage at 4am and helps him fix a car; we suspected he may be angelic or somehow supernatural in origin, though this turned out not to be the case). After the play we were still somewhat hazy as to what it all meant but we knew an awful lot more about mink farming and, should we ever encounter black spots in mink feed, we’ll know just what to do. (In the later stages of the play David invests in a mink farm – a high risk venture).

Over the inevitable post-play bottle of red in a nearby pub we decided that the overall message has something to do with the fact that good deeds and good fortune don’t necessarily go hand in hand and that ‘luck’ is arbitrary and flexible concept; if you think of yourself as lucky you can become so. To David his luck becomes his curse, he becomes frozen, waiting for something to give – though in the end, common sense and a cautious character play as much of a part in David’s fortunes as his luck.

Regardless of what the whole thing may have meant, the notion of luck and chance and of some folks unaccountably having an easy ride of it in life, was pleasingly underlined by the fact that Jeffrey Archer was sitting prominently, smugly some might say, in the middle of the front row throughout.

Andrew and I had less luck however when we tried to sneak down from our perch in the circle to snag some empty stalls seats, as some other lucky sods beat us to it.