A very exciting coup for the Old Red Lion: Arthur Miller’s first play, recently rediscovered (there’s a very interesting piece in WhatsOnStage by director Sean Turner on how he found and staged the work). No Villain was written by Miller in a rush; having never written a play before, he hoped to enter and win a playwriting competition so that the prize money could be used to fund his education. He did win the competition, but the play was never produced – until now.
The profoundly autobiographical play centres on a Jewish immigrant family whose clothing business is under threat from striking workers. While the father insists that he is “no villain” for wanting the factory to succeed, his college-educated son returns home with Communist sympathies for the workers, and his other, elder son is torn between family loyalty and sympathy for his brother’s views.
For a first play, it is superbly accomplished, with well-drawn characters – brought to life by a talented cast – powerful language and scenes of real tension. If it is a little too wordy and preachy at times, this can be forgiven in such an early work. The seeds of Miller’s later masterpieces, such as All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, are here; it is quite simply a must-see for Miller fans.