Whether you see Willy Loman as a “fine, troubled prince” or simply a “phony little fake,” there’s lots to ponder in Don Warrington’s multifaceted portrayal of him at the Royal Exchange.
In charting the fall of a normal man, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman asks us all to question what we’re working for and why.
This is a production of two halves. The more naturalistic, slow-paced first half exploits the in-the-round staging to convey domestic and professional entrapment, with the lighting forcing us to reflect on the validity of the perspectives we’re shown. Later, the sparse, circular set provides scope to explore Willy’s thoughts in an increasingly abstract way as the pressure and – thankfully – pace build.
Warrington’s Loman is a subdued presence for most of the play, wound-up inside himself like a tightly coiled spring. When the release finally does come, though, it carries real emotional weight and integrity. There are some nuanced performances, too, from the supporting cast, with Maureen Beattie bringing out a steely inner strength in Willy’s wife Linda and Ashley Zhangazha’s resonant voice making son Biff a mouthpiece for what’s truly important.
The preoccupation with artifice and being “well-liked” feels apposite in today’s social media-led society and Biff appears the consummate millennial with his portfolio career and inability to get on the property ladder. But perhaps the production’s greatest triumph is in leaving the contemporary relevance of the play to speak for itself. This is an elegantly restrained rendering of the everyman’s downfall.
Subtle, reverent portrayal of the Miller classic featuring quietly assured performances from the cast ****