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Death of A Salesman

Perth Theatre
4 stars
In the current economic climate, Arthur Miller’s masterly study of one
man’s downfall in a world where everything is for sale now looks like
the most painfully prophetic of all his mighty works. On a purely
domestic level, watching Willy Loman’s slow, self-deluded suicide as
the very edifice of everything he ever put faith in collapses around
him is even more harrowing. Rather than graft on any over-egged thesis,
however, Ian Grieve’s swansong production as artistic director at Perth
somewhat wisely lets Miller’s play speak for itself.

The result is both a telling insight into the cruelties of a boom and
bust society where the big-talking pitch is the norm, as well as a
compelling tragedy concerning the loneliness of the long-distance
little guy and the far-reaching consequences of his on-the-road
indiscretions. At first when Ron Emslie’s weary Willy first starts
talking to himself on Ken Harrison’s busy set, conjuring up scenes of
less tired times when he was king of the world to his two boys, you
suspect such ramblings may be signaling the onset of Alzheimer’s
Disease. Soon, though, it becomes clear that Willy is plummeting in an
emotional and psychological freefall he’s too emasculated to deal with.

There’s a dream-like quality at play here, as Willy’s past and present
collide in a maelstrom of hand-me-down baggage that his sons Biff and
Happy have each inherited parts of. As the play’s centre, Emslie
navigates Willy through this with a bluff vulnerability that thoroughly
convinces. With Willy thrown onto the scrap-heap by the most
unsentimental of systems, the crash, when it comes, may be freedom of
sorts, but even that has its price.

The Herald, February 14th 2011

ends.

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