Death of a Salesman review at Dundee Rep – ‘compelling and powerful’

Billy Mack in Death of a Salesman at Dundee Rep. Photo: Jane Hobson
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The power of this production of Death of a Salesman comes from its understanding of the little things.

A lone flautist's melody, trailing mournfully across the desolation of Neil Warmington's opened-up stage, sets the tone. Billy Mack's Willy Loman emerges out of the now infertile soil of his house's back garden, as if rising from the grave. He plays him as a man both vibrant and dog-tired.

Director Joe Douglas and his inspired team – both backstage and on – have created a wonderfully low key, crepuscular take on Arthur Miller. Impeccably clear in its narrative drive, it blends flashbacks with the present, dream and reality, with ease.

At the centre of all this is Mack's performance. You can see his lies as he says them, a small man towered over by his sons Biff (Ewan Donald) and Happy (Laurie Scott). Yet still you believe the lies – as he and they must also believe them in order to survive.

The musicians, sounding the notes of Nikola Kodjabashia's tingling score from the dark edges of the stage, morph into Loman's ghostly memories. Barrie Hunter's Uncle Ben, emerging god-like from an idyllic back garden. Antony Strachan's neighbour Charlie, a constantly available but rejected lifeline. Irene MacDougall's strident, enabling Linda, the one clear voice of authority on the stage, and The Woman, a cackling, unfeeling Ann Louise Ross.

This production clearly says much of the fabulist currently inhabiting the White House, and more than that – it speaks from its great, open sweltering heart to its audience's dreams and their own faltering mortality.

 

Verdict
Compelling take on Arthur Miller’s classic play suffused with a sense of human frailty
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