Saturday, 18 July 2015

Death of a Salesman at Noel Coward Theatre

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It was the recipient of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances. Death of a Salesman is often numbered on the short list of being among the finest American plays in the 20th century.

I had heard a lot about this play, but had never got the chance to watch it nor had I read it. When we realised that 18 July 2015 was the last performance of this run of the play at Noel Coward Theatre, we quickly booked tickets for the penultimate show.

I'm glad, I didn't read up anything about the play before I went to watch it, because I could enjoy the story line as it evolved. The problem with well known plays for me, is that I know how things end before a performance even begins. I personally prefer the slow reveal.

In the land of the free, each man is in charge of his own destiny. But as old age begins to take hold of Willy Loman, the dream of retiring with his loving wife and watching his handsome sons continue his legacy seems further away than ever. Directed by Gregory Doran, this production of the Royal Shakespeare Company marks the centenary celebrations of Arthur Miller.

The 4 main characters are Willy Loman - a salesman in his 60's, his wife Linda and his 2 sons - Biff & Happy.

The play opens with Willy returning half way through a sales trip unable to carry on his journey. His troubles start out seeming quite commonplace - burn out due to overwork and wishing his sons had achieved more in life. But as the play moves forward, you realise that there are much more serious issues involved, dangerous secrets to be revealed.

This is most definitely a tragic play, and we came away feeling quite depressed.

Almost 70 years have passed since Arthur Miller penned this play, but the social, moral and consumerist issues are exactly the same today too. The line between reality and illusion is normally very clear in the present, but it gets a bit hazy when thinking of the past and in the case of Willy Loman, he embellishes his memories so much, that it seems that he can no longer distinguish between the two.

It is difficult to find sympathy for Linda, because it seems like she enables Willy's behaviour, no matter how irrational.

Death of a Salesman is a tragedy and depressing, but it is also thought provoking and covers topics that need to be discussed amongst the youth of today.
What is Success?
What is acceptable behaviour on the path to success?
What are the responsibilities of parents towards their children and children towards their older parents?
Should you follow your own dreams or those that others think you are capable of?

Its a lot to think about...

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