Belvoir have a real winner in this new production of the classic play Death of a Salesmen, the season has been extended and currently plays to 19 August. If you can still grab a ticket I can only recommend you don’t think twice – it’s just simply extraordinary.
Death of a Salesman is one of the finest plays of the modern American theatre. Written by Arthur Miller in 1949 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. It is widely seen as Miller’s indictment of capitalism and the American Dream. Yet at its heart, Death of a Salesman is the story of a man past his prime, struggling with his failings and the dashed hopes that his sons would achieve more than he has.
Willy Loman is feeling his age. He and his wife Linda are struggling to make their mortgage repayments. The company he works for is branching out in new directions and it looks like he’s about to be left behind. When his university drop-out son, Biff, moves back home after years of drifting, old tensions rise to the surface.
Sure it’s written about post war America but this story is more than likely playing out across the world right now where communities, families are feeling the pressure and challenges of poor economies. But also at the heart of this play is the relationship between a father and son, of expectations never met and disappointment of choices – very close to the bone for myself and many others in our community.
Director Simon Stone has ditched the American ascents which tend to give this show a closer to home feel. The set designed by Ralph Myers consists of a white Ford Falcon in which and around the action is played out. It’s very effective in assisting the audience to use their imagination in visualising the many scene changes, and a very effective use of costume aids the move from the present to flashback.
The cast here are all excellent, but it’s the performance of Colin Friels as Willy Loman the central character that you won’t ever forget. Over the duration as he slowly falls apart it’s heartbreaking, believable and sad. Some of the last scenes with his son Bif, beautifully played by Patrick Brammall are some of the most poignant I’ve seen on stage for a while and Genevieve Lemon as Willy’s wife Linda is haunting trying to hold her family together.
Mr Friels isn’t seen on stage that much and he only seems to touch great memorable roles, such as that he played in Copenhagen back in 2003 and for which he won the Helpman. It seems to me, at this time in his career, Willy Loman and he sit well. I understand that Mr Friels said recently when asked about his decision to play Willy that “Acting gives me sleepless nights, pimples, rashes, anxiety. But also a deep satisfaction somehow. It makes you feel more...human. It's a way of making a connection, I guess.”
What a connection he makes with this role, it will stay in your mind and soul always – bravo!