Sunday, 26 February 2017

Death of A Salesman

Dundee Rep
Four stars

A woman dressed in black plays the flute as she walks mournfully onto a dust covered stage flanked by rows of ash cans. At its centre, a man is elevated up from a life-size hole in the ground and rises from the grave he arguably made for himself. This isn't the most obvious opening for Arthur Miller's Pulitzer Prize winning 1949 treatise on how money can literally suck the life out of those barely scraping by. Rather than merely replicate the play's inherent naturalism, Joe Douglas' production rummages deep within the psyche of the play's tormented protagonist Willy Loman to revitalises its tragedy in an even more devastating fashion.

When not in a scene, the nine-strong cast pick out low-end notes on one of two pianos that sit either side of the stage. In the play's key flashback scenes, dialogue is spoken into microphones as if echoes from the ghosts of a past that haunts Willy, as his successful brother Ben and the woman in the hotel room where his self-destruction began are conjured up.

None of this ever overwhelms the action itself. Instead, Neil Warmington's set and Nikola Kodjabashi's brooding live score become essential components of the story, with the broken and dysfunctional Lomans remaining at its heart. As Biff and Happy, Ewan Donald and Laurie Scott capture all the confusion and under-achievement of a post-war generation coming of age. Irene Macdougall's Linda is a mess of disappointment and devotion. As Willy, Billy Mack gives a heartbreaking turn as a crumpled bag of neuroses living on his nerves but too tired to admit his defeat in a searing portrait of ordinary madness in a madder world.


The Herald, February 27th 2017

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