Stratford Upon Avon
RSC, Main House
Runs: 3h 5m, one interval, till Saturday 02 05 15

Review: Alexander Ray Edser 04 04 15

A truly memorable occasion
Antony Sher’s performance of this most-flawed of protagonists is astounding. Physically and vocally his presentation of Willy Loman is faultless. Sher is able to scale the heights and delve the depths and move between them in the blink of an eye. He can drag us from tears, to anger, to laughter just as quickly – and in this, you can’t but fail to realise this is exactly as Willy lives in his own world. And there is more. Not only does Sher do this within the character, but also, as actor, he drives the play along; we have no moment to catch our breath as we share with Willy his headlong rush to the play’s tragic conclusion.

I cannot get this subtle, large, bravura performance out of my head. Nor can I get the play out of it either.

In a way Willy Loman signifies capitalism. He is a salesman, part of a consumer orientated society. Yet at the end of his life, as we are constantly reminded, he has nothing to show. Willy is part of, and part creator of, the American dream; a ‘phoney dream’ as his son Biff comes to describe it. But as we now know the dream is as fragile as a bubble, and it can burst. Willy is thrown onto the scrap heap when he can no longer make money for the company that employs him. Miller’s play doesn’t speak across the decades, it shouts across them. Only they words have changed – now to ‘zero hours’ and the capitalist requirement for a ‘flexible work-force.’

All this floods through our minds as we watch this prescient play. And while we can be annoyed, angered, frustrated at Willy’s unwise obstinacy and constant fantasy, we never fail to see him as a victim and as a human being.

Sher’s remarkable performance is flanked by other strong portrayals. In particular another remarkable performance from Harriet Walter as Linda, Willy’s wife. Walter has the ability to communicate through every second of a performance, none more so than in her long periods of not speaking. In her big moments, she can tear us apart, forcing us (with the other characters) to reappraise our views.

Gregory Doran orchestrates this play with confident theatrical and political passion, creating with his team a most memorable occasion.

Tobias Beer – Howard Wagner
Paul Birchard – Older Waiter
Helen Grady – Jenny
Ross Green – Stanley
Alex Hassell – Biff Loman
Emma King – Miss Forsyth
Sam Marks – Happy Loman
Miranda Nolan – Letta
Sarah Parks – The Woman
Guy Paul – Uncle Ben
Joshua Richards – Charley
Brodie Ross – Bernard
Antony Sher – Willy Loman
Harriet Walter – Linda Loman

Director – Gregory Doran
Designer – Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting – Tim Mitchell
Music – Paul Englishby
Sound – Jonathan Ruddick

2015-04-05 15:33:58

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