Broken Glass

Written by Arthur Miller

Thurs 18th - Sat 20th November & Tues 23rd - Sat 27th November 1999

Directed by John Batstone

Set in New York in 1938 against a background of Nazi Atrocities against the Jewish community, a woman has been shocked into paralysis. This play explores her relationships, looks at her private neuroses and sets them against the things happening around her.

This is Arthur Miller's most recent play, performed first in 1994. It continues his life-long concern with the conscience of America.

AuthorArthur Miller

Arthur Miller (1915 - 2005)

Arthur Miller was born in New York City. His father lost his business in the Depression and the family was forced to move to a smaller home in Brooklyn. As a young man, Miller held jobs ranging from radio singer to truck driver to clerk. Miller began writing plays as a student at the University of Michigan, joining the Federal Theatre Project in New York City after he received his degree.

His first Broadway play, 'The Man Who Had All the Luck' opened in 1944 and his next play 'All My Sons' received the Drama Critics' Circle Award. His 1949 'Death of a Salesman' won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered to be his most successful play.

In 1956 and 1957, Miller was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was convicted of contempt of Congress for his refusal to identify writers believed to hold Communist sympathies. The following year, the United States Court of Appeals overturned the conviction. In 1959 the National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Drama. Miller was married three times, most famously, his second wife was Marilyn Monroe. His writing earned him a plethora of honours, including the Pulitzer Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an Olivier, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish prize. He held honorary doctorate degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University.

Throughout his life and work, Miller remained socially engaged and wrote with conscience, clarity, and compassion. Miller's work was infused with his sense of responsibility to humanity and to his audience.

PlayBroken Glass

The play was written in 1994 and takes place in Brooklyn in the last few days of 1938. The plot follows Phillip and Sylvia Gellburg who are a Jewish married couple living in New York. Phillip works at a Wall Street bank, where he works on foreclosing. Sylvia suddenly becomes partially paralysed from the waist down after reading about the events of Kristallnacht in the newspaper. Kristallnacht (translated as The Night of Broken Glass) was the coordinated Nazi attack on Jewish people and their property which led to 91 Jews being murdered, 25,000 to 30,000 arrests, 267 synagogues being destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses being ransacked by the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo and the SS on 9th and 10th November that year.

Dr. Harry Hyman is contacted by Phillip to try and help Sylvia recover. Dr. Hyman believes that Sylvia's paralysis is psychosomatic, and though he is not a psychiatrist, he begins to treat her according to his diagnosis. Throughout the play, Dr. Hyman learns more about the problems that Sylvia is having in her personal life, particularly in her marriage. After an argument with his boss, Philip suffers a heart attack and is dying at his home. Phillip and Sylvia confront each other about their feelings. Before Phillip dies, his final words are "Sylvia, forgive me!". Upon his death, Sylvia's paralysis is cured.

The play was first performed in New Haven, Connecticut in June 1994 and received its UK premiere in August of the same year at the Lyttelton Theatre. It received the 1995 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play and was nominated for a 1994 Tony.

The Bench Production

Broken Glass poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Philip GellburgPete Woodward
Margaret HymanSharman Callam
Dr Harry HymanDavid Penrose
Harriet, Sylvia's sisterJude Salmon
Sylvia GellburgIngrid Corrigan
Stanton CaseAlan Welton


Director John Batstone
Stage Managers Sam Emery
Zoë Corrigan
Lighting Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Paul Millington
Poster and Leaflet Design Pete Woodward
Front of House Derek Callam

Director's Notes

For all the talk of the shrinking planet and the global village, from the comparative comfort and distance of our capitalist democracy it is not too difficult to say "Sarajevo - so?", "Rwanda - so?" and now, "East Timor - so?" But as human beings we make enough of an engagement to empathise with Sylvia Gellburg in this play who has apparently been shocked into paralysis by the news of the humiliations and man's inhumanity to man filtering through to 1930s New York from Nazi Germany.

In 'Death of a Salesman', Willy Loman, with seeming candour, invites the clever lawyer son of his neighbour to explain where it's all gone wrong. Bernard replies, "Sometimes Willy, it's better for a man just to walk away." Quite literally, Sylvia can't walk away and the crisis is played out in her life and in the lives of those closest to her.

If she is imprisoned in her wheelchair, her husband is locked inside his own mind. Before fixing on 'Death of a Salesman' as his title for the earlier play, Miller had toyed with the title 'The Inside of his Head'. Now in this, his most recent play, the title would serve equally well, at least for a considerable part, for 'Broken Glass' Philip Gellburg is in denial; of his own Jewishness, his marriage and indeed his own name. He will not look in the mirror, he has in effect broken the glass; his responsibility in the sexual side of his marriage is a self-justifying tangle of evasion and crucially for a Miller hero, he is uncomfortable with his name, "It's Gellburg, not Goldberg, G-e-l-l-b-u-r-g. It's the only one in the phone book."

Elsewhere, the salesman refuses to accept that he is 'Willy Loman, a dime a dozen'; Joe Keller must come to terms with the fact that all the young pilots who flew those P40s with the cracked cylinder heads are all (his) sons, even if they don't bear his name. In 'The Crucible', John Proctor is only ready to die when he is able to say "How may I live without my name?" It is doubtful if Gellburg ever reaches this state, certainly too late to save his marriage.

These notes may serve to indicate that in this play America's leading living playwright has brought together in highly concentrated form so many of the pre-occupations, public and private, that have filled his plays over more that fifty years. The scale is small, the scope is vast.

Clearly a serious play, it is not a solemn one. Miller in his 80th year has not lost his ear for vigorous dialogue, dry humour, and an ability to convey the texture of post-Depression New York. We may not know precisely the devious strategies that whirl around Gellburg's head, but we do know that he buys his shorts at Wannamaker's.

John Batstone

Production Photographs