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review: belvoir’s death of a salesman

Belvoir presents
Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller

Directed by Simon Stone

Directed by Simon Stone (Belvior’s resident director), Arthur Miller’s 1949 play is set in Australia, with Americanisms such as “gee” and “oh boy” exclaimed with Australian accents. Although this can appear strange at moments, you soon ignore this and instead focus on being drawn into Willy Lowman’s demise. Colin Friels perfectly captures Willy’s bragging confidence and complete lows, and he swings between these scenes of pleading, rage and naive hope, which are all the more powerful for being performed on an almost empty stage, with a sparse use of costuming, lighting and sound.

Without elaborate sets there are no distractions from Willy’s decline. A late model ford sits as an iconic symbol on the stage for the duration of the play, which is used as an entry point onto the stage, neatly delineating between the present and Willy’s past memories, which he begins to engage with. The car is used along with other simple props such as the football and ipad, and Alice Babidge’s casual contemporary costuming. Likewise Nick Schlieper’s lighting is used sparingly, including the car’s headlights, along with Stefan Gregory’s spare use of sound and composition. Gregory powerfully uses Springsteen’s Highway 29, which is played in the final moments of Willy’s life as the car fills up with monoxide.

The themes dealt with by Miller are still incredibly relevant today in the current financial climate and it is this desperation that the audience is left with. The danger of being caught up in the need for material success may be at the heart of the American Dream, but it is still relevant to today’s Australia and Stone seems to be pointing at this. Stone also changes Miller’s ending so that the final scene of Willy in the car is the one that we are left with. This can perhaps be seen as emphasising Willy’s realisation of his son’s Biff’s love for him through the universal theme of a father and son relationship.

Patrick Brammall perfectly captures the optimistic, youthful football star of Biff who idealises his father, and then the damaged adult that he becomes. Hamish Michael on the other hand continues to construct a life based on dishonesty, delusion and entitlement as Happy, taught to him by Willy. Brammall is strong as this morally bankrupt characters who is willing to tell Willy whatever will make him happy, even if its all lies. Genevieve Lemon on the other hand, portrays Linda as an Australian archetype ‘the little Aussie battler.’ She is tough, stoic, patient and contains her feelings well towards Willy even when treated poorly by him.

Belvoir’s production resists cliche and with the financial situation of many today, is still hugely relevant. A play definitely worth seeing before it finishes.

Colin Friels – Willy Lowman
Patrick Brammall – Biff
Genevieve Lemon – Linda (wife)
Blazey Best – affair woman
Happy – Hamish Michael
Luke Mullins – next door Bernard and willy’s young boss

Venue: Belvoir St Theatre | 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Dates: 23 June – 19 August, 2012
Times: Tuesday 6.30pm | Wednesday to Friday 8pm | Saturday 2pm & 8pm | Sunday 5pm

RETURN SEASON AT THEATRE ROYAL – 23 OCTOBER to 3 NOVEMBER

One thought on “review: belvoir’s death of a salesman

  1. Wow. Massive spoiler mentioning the ending.

    Also, Highway 29 wasn’t in the version that I saw and apparently hasn’t been since just after opening night. When did you see this?

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