Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

My head tells me I should go to bed straight away, as it’s close to midnight and I need to be awake at five o’clock in the morning to be at work at six. Actually, to be honest, although I set the alarm for five o’clock, I usually hit the snooze button a couple of times, and, being so close to work, I can still make it by six. But I just can’t go to bed just yet, as I’m still quite pumped from having seen the Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of “Death of a Salesman”.

I have always been vaguely aware of Arthur Miller’s work, having studied “The Crucible” at high school. However, I’ve never seen a production of his best known play, “Death of a Salesman”. And so when Colin and I were sitting in the theatre tonight waiting for the show to start, I asked him for a brief outline of the plot. Put very simply: it’s the story of a man who, close to retirement, with many regrets, kills himself.

In deciding to go, the star attraction for me was Jackie Weaver as the wife. I think she’s such a fantastic actor and one of those people who, when on stage, just makes you feel good.

However, it was Jackie’s real life husband – and husband in the play – who was the real surprise attraction. He was absolutely tremendous in the title role. There were so many people from my own life – friends and family (and probably a bit of myself) – who I could see in the characterisation he provided. Truly fantastic, especially as he maintained such a strong and consistent performance over a fairly lengthy play.

Also, the actor who played the son “Biff” was excellent. In this character too, I could see many parralels with the issues all of us struggle with as we search for meaning. Like his father, he too, had regrets about an apparent sense of failure.

The most moving scene for me was the funeral scene. The look on Jackie Weaver’s face, that look of desolate grief, was overwhelming. As I looked into her eyes, tears swelled up in mine, eventually rolling down my right cheek.

At one moment I thought of the father son relationship as being like that explored in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”. And then I began to think about plays like “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” and some of the other great works of American theatre. At that point I wondered if, we too, have a similar theatrical tradition in Australia. I concluded that although we have some great plays, we probably don’t have many of those plays which have the same international appeal. We often go for the quirky, the uniquely Australian, and we often don’t like to “spell it out” as obviously as American theatre often does. We also often use humour to diffuse an exploration of some of those “great issues” of life. That may or may not be a good thing.

Overall though I thought it was a great play. Great actors, too. And the set was simple. There was nothing to distract you from the play itself, which contains so many memorable scenes and memorable lines. The kind of lines that you don’t just let slip by as “good one liners”. They’re the kind of lines that you listen to, and then reflect upon for moments afterwards. Don’t ask me to repeat some of them now, though, as it’s close to midnight and I should be in bed.

  1. Isn’t this a powerful play. I got to study this one at school (as opposed to The Crucible), and one of the best things the class did was see it as a live production. The themes are universal, and expressed so poignantly. I would love to see this current production, given the high-calibre cast. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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  2. I have been reading your blog for some time James mainly for the Surry Hills comments (I’m a SH neighbour)..but recently,I attended the opening night of “Chess” the musical,and left at the interval.Then read your comment “I really hated the first half last night”.but then,”The second half, however, was much better”..bugger..well..not sure why I went as I,m not keen on musical theatre..but maybe I could’ve stayed a bit longer..maybe.
    Also interested in your positive review of “Death of a Salesman”,as coincidently,I am due to see it next week and it seems to tick a few boxes for me as a retired/male/father who is also a long term fan of Jackie Weaver.
    Thanks for an interestingly topical blog

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  3. Downshifta – nice to meet you, and thanks for your nice comments about my blog. I hope you enjoy Salesman. It’s a great play. I saw Jill Litson gave it 4/5 stars in today’s Sunday Telegraph, and made similar observations to my own about the play.

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