DEATH OF A SALESMAN
by Arthur Miller.
West Yorkshire Playhouse (Quarry Theatre) To 29 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 26 May.
BSL Signed 25 May.
Runs 3hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0113 213 7700.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 May.
On the road with the Lomans.
Those endless cowboy prairies have become the range where a mid-century salesman like Willy Loman can feel himself at home in a land of opportunity. And most of the night’s thousand eyes are headlamps in the ceaseless flow of traffic in the video images opening Sarah Esdaile’s Leeds revival of Arthur Miller’s analysis of the free-range American dream.
For what should bring freedom brings only frustration. Material prosperity means monthly payments on faulty machinery, the pressures of success bring a sense of failure, and the demands of love show-up the seedy sexual sliding of a lonesome cowboy in a hotel-room.
Miller’s action grinds towards the point of an inevitable accident, where all the stock of faith and its dividends in ambition that he’s created, come crashing-down as illusions collapse.
Willy’s death has to be on the open road, and as the scenery moves aside it’s this open road his family’s left travelling. It’s the endless path of illusion for those who’ve dreamed beyond practicality, unlike neighbours Charlie and Bernard who do make a success of life, lacking only the various Lomans’ different poetries.
Philip Joseph’s Willy is a study in defeat. His features look tired from the start, hanging in a parody of the younger facile optimism of the flashbacks. There’s a determination in the voice, though that falters into anger or defeat. Figures surround Willy at some points, like thoughts crowding into a mind on the point of crumbling under the weight of demands.
By contrast Marion Bailey gives his wife Linda a bright-seeming optimism, fuelled by her faith in him. But Willy’s self-belief in younger days misleads his sons, though only one finds out how much. Lex Shrapnel and Nick Barber forcefully capture the two sides, the self-belief and unfounded hopes versus the shabby reality of their behaviour.
On the Quarry Theatre’s large stage there’s a sense of darkness, little moments of energy and brightness played out on the flat front space, with temporary furnishings, leaving the main home area for the sombre reality of the daily struggle, in a clear revival sensitive to the play’s dark dynamics.
Willy Loman: Philip Jackson.
Linda Loman: Marion Bailey.
Biff: Lex Shrapnel.
Happy: Nick Barber.
Bernard: Adam Venus.
The Woman: Sarah Ball.
Charlie: Tom Hodgkins.
Uncle Ben: Christopher Ettridge.
Howard: Russell Bentley.
Jenny/Miss Forsythe: Maya Wasowicz.
Stanley/Flautist: Tomm Coles.
Letta: Poppy Roe.
Director: Sarah Esdaile.
Designer: Francis O’Connor.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound/Projection: Mic Pool.
Composer/Musical Director: Simon Slater.
Voice coach: Charmian Hoare.
Movement: Nick Winston.
Fight director: Terry king.
Assistant director: Eleanor White.