Michael Higgs interview - 'Broken Glass is, unfortunately, an incredibly well timed revival'

Michael Higgs

Richard Beecham’s production of Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, which is currently running at Watford Palace Theatre, is the first revival of the play in around a decade.

Michael Higgs plays Harry Hyman, a doctor called in to investigate the paralysis of a woman disturbed by images of Nazis destroying thousands of Jews homes. Higgs has previously appeared on stage in The Woman in Black and The Homecoming, and told us a little bit about Miller’s play.

For someone who doesn’t know the play, what is Broken Glass about?

The play is part psychological detective story and part political drama that is set in Brooklyn in 1938. In it a woman, Sylvia Gellburg, is afflicted by a mysterious paralysis of her legs. Is her illness the consequence of her identification with the Jews currently being persecuted by Nazi thugs in Hitler's Germany? Or is it to do with the withdrawal of physical affection by her husband, Phillip, and his ambivalent attitude to his own Jewishness? The case is investigated by Dr Harry Hyman, a doctor, whose open sensuality is in stark contrast to the buttoned-up husband Philip.

You play Dr Hyman in the piece, what’s his role within the play?

It seems to me, unfortunately, an incredibly well timed revival, what with the recent rise of anti-Semitism in this country and across Europe, and the reluctance of people and governments to take in migrants and refugees fleeing war and persecution. The philosophy of protectionism right now seems very similar to America in the 1930s when the play is set.

The play is being revived 23 years after it won the Olivier Award for Best Play, what about the play makes it important today? What is something this production offers that an audience won’t be able to get anywhere else?

To your question what does our production offer that you can’t see anywhere else, I would quite simply, Arthur Miller’s play Broken glass, as it’s been 10 years since it was last staged in London. I think our director Richard Beecham has brought a wonderful balance of intellectual and emotional integrity to our production that supports Arthur Miller’s world view incredibly well.

Have you ever performed in an Arthur Miller play before? What are your previous experiences with his work?

I’ve only previously done one Arthur Miller play before and that was at drama school in the Crucible, in which I played Reverend Hale. What I failed to realise then was Miller’s incredible gift for combining small personnel stories with a bigger political picture. It’s an incredible skill of his which is evident in pretty much all of his plays.

Is there a role in a classic play you would like the opportunity to play in your career?

It’s been a ridiculous 16 years since I last did a play and that was Harold Pinter’s, The Homecoming with Pete Postlethaite at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Pinter and Miller are two of my favourite playwrights so it would be great go back to Pinter after doing Miller. Perhaps a play like Betrayal, only this time I’d prefer not to have a 16 year interval!

One of your early roles was as the actor in The Woman in Black. Would you ever one day consider returning to the show to play Arthur Kipps?

Hmmm, maybe… but only when I’m a little older.

Broken Glass runs at Watford Palace Theatre until 24th March.

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