As unemployment continues to cast a spectre over many and the ideal of job security with a job for life becomes increasingly rare, Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman has never been more timely.
As Willie Loman faces unemployment after 34 years working for the same company, his life begins to unravel. Ghosts of the past come to haunt the Loman family as family truths and past lies come crashing into the present. It’s a potent mix of emotions and one that doesn’t always make comfortable viewing but, in Open Space Theatre Company’s production, one that is utterly gripping.
Played against a minimalist staging, this is a production focused on the human impact of a life falling apart, with the play’s mix of flashbacks well handled. Direction from David Green sensibly focuses on the family interaction and fractions, giving a solid background for the repercussions to ripple out over the years.
At the centre of the piece are two wonderfully detailed performances by Paul Baker and Yves Green as on the scrapheap salesman Willie and wife Linda. Baker’s Loman visibly emotionally falls apart as his life slowly unravels while Green’s outwardly strong matriarch slowly lets the cracks begin to show.
By the end of the second act, the decline of the couple is almost too painful to watch; Loman deserted by his employer, his sons, and his business contacts with only his devoted wife to comfort him. Tragically, though, by this point Loman is too deep in the pit of despair to recognise his wife’s devotion. There are also nice characterisations from Mark Burridge and Peter Long as the Loman sons and Steven Phipps as successful neighbour Charley.
In these times of increased fiscal prudence, when retirement ages are being raised, Death Of A Salesman raises some topical questions, with financial pressure on employers to balance costly experience with cheaper inexperience. Maybe the impact of this move won’t be felt for several years but this echo of post-War American life can perhaps act as a warning from the past.
Miller’s Death Of A Salesman may now be 61 years old but this production shows there is still plenty of life in it.
Picture: Paul Baker as Willie Loman and Dawn Symonds as The Woman in Death Of A Salesman