Skip to main content

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

ends                                                   

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

The Divide

King's Theatre
Four stars

Everything is black and white in Alan Ayckbourn's new play, a six hour two part epic set in a dystopian future where men and women are segregated from each other following the aftermath of an unspecified plague. Into this landscape, the secret diaries of brother and sister Elihu and Soween are brought to life by Jake Davies and Erin Doherty with a wide-eyed lightness of touch as their hormones get the better of them when they both hit puberty.
Annabel Bolton's production for the Old Vic, EIF and Karl Sydow begins with a TED Talk type lecture that reveals the back story to how things turned out this way. It ends with a sentimental love story designed to tug the heart-strings. Inbetween, there is teenage rebellion aplenty against the regime's institutionalised repression. Liberation comes through art and sex, which, in such extreme circumstances become even greater life forces.

With both plays told through the siblings' diaries alongside ass…