Richard Lutz reviews a modern American classic which pulls no punches
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Stratford on Avon
The past may be another country. But for Willy Loman in this Arthur Miller classic, it’s something that vitiates the present and will haunt the future.
Anthony Sher’s tragic loser of a father and husband tells lies and deceits throughout his life. He is a victim of the flimsy American dream. But that’s not his tragedy. His tragedy is he is not delusional and he knows he has failed and flailed as a travelling businessman, as a father, a husband, a neighbour and even as a cheating lover. Nothing has come good in his tainted life.
Death of a Salesman is powerful, gripping drama and Sher has the New York lingo down pat as he tries to create a world that is clearly an illusion made to re-arrange the past. Harriet Walter is haunting as his tired patient wife, who knows full well she loves a man who never made a nickel, but sure made up a story from his tales of the road.
His two sons in this disintegrating life, Biff (Alex Hassell) and Happy (Sam Marks), also suffer from their father’s shortcomings and admit they never progressed from either office Lothario or hired farmhand. They are damaged dynastic goods.
Miller’s 1951 classic still singes deeply into the core of American family life, despite its sixty year pedigree. It doesn’t creak at the seams nor sound old-fashioned. Every family has a novel written into its seams. Especially the Loman family.
It rightly deserves plaudits as one of the greatest stage plays of the last century. And this performance, directed by Greg Doran, ensures an audience that its dramatic power and its ultimate descent are never lost nor muddled.
Until 2nd May
Tickets: 0844 800 1110