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Arthur Miller play "No Villain", written as a 20-year-old student, to premiere in Britain
Arthur Miller, American playwright. Photo: U.S. State Department via

By: Naomi O'Leary

LONDON (AFP).- A play by US playwright Arthur Miller is to have its world premiere in London next month 79 years after it was written, following the recovery of the long-lost manuscript in an archive.

"No Villain" was written by Miller as a 20-year-old student over six days in 1936 during his spring break, in hopes of winning the University of Michigan's $250 Avery Hopwood award.

He needed the money to be able to return to college for another year.

Miller won, but the play was never staged and was largely forgotten until London-based director Sean Turner came across a mention it in an autobiography of Miller and became fascinated.

"I was determined to find the script, it was the only dramatic work I couldn't find of his," he told AFP.

After a year and a half of detective work the original typed manuscript was unearthed by librarians at the University of Michigan and Turner was given a copy.

It is now to have its world premiere on December 8 at the Old Red Lion Theatre, above a pub in central London, just over 100 years since Miller's birth.

Although it is Miller's first play, the play has "the mark of quality" that sets it out as the work of a writer later celebrated as one of the greatest US playwrights of the 20th century, according to Turner.

"After 18 months of searching I was sure it was going to be substandard," the director said.

"It is a wonderful piece of work, not just a nascent idea, he's really writing quite fully formed. The rhythms are there, the beautiful high poetry in domestic settings we see in his later work," he added.

The play tells the story of a student who has become a Marxist at university and returns to his family in New York, to find himself torn between helping the family coat-making business or joining the striking workers.

Miller's own father ran a coat factory.

The writer later explored US suspicion and blacklisting of people suspected of Communist sympathies in "The Crucible", a dramatisation of the Salem witch trials, and was himself hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956.

Miller called "No Villain" the "most autobiographical dramatic work I would ever write", its theme of a clash between social and familial responsibility something that would return in later plays.

"It's a really brave work considering the other plays that were around in the 1930s," Turner said.

Miller, who married actress Marilyn Monroe, is also known for his works "All my Sons", "Death of a Salesman" and "A View from the Bridge".

"No Villain" will run until January 9.

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

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