While most of those promise relatively radical reinterpretations of the great man’s great work, this production – a transfer from Bath’s Theatre Royal – is more traditional. Its radicalism lies primarily in the choice of play. Written in 1968, after his huge successes, The Price isn’t often performed.
It has neither the tautness nor the scope of his better known work. That’s not to do it down – it’s still an incredibly good play. But greatness suffers when placed next to even greater greatness, and so The Price suffers.
Two brothers – one a successful doctor (Adrian Lukis), the other a miserable cop (Brendan Coyle)– reunite when selling off their long-late father’s furniture – Simon Higlett’s amazingly pendulous set has what looks like half an antiques shop hanging from the ceiling. Their father lost everything in the Great Depression, and both brothers found their own ways to avoid repeating his mistakes.
Into this situation comes a mischievous furniture dealer, played by the magnificent David Suchet, suspicious, timid, playful, wise, treacherous, old and young, cycling through all these states and many more in every moment. At one point he has the audience in stitches (he’s an incredible comic actor), then, with one tiny line, he silences them. That takes skill.
Coyle’s also a really solid actor and although his early corpsing pulls him out of the role a bit, the second act’s heavy and impassioned speeches give him many chances to shine. He is also incredibly expressive in his silence; he lumbers around the stage with a weight-of-the-world expression, all sighs, scowls and sorrow.
Some of the other performances are played more broadly, in ways that don’t sit as well with the mood of Jonathan Church’s production, but it’s a price worth paying to see Suchet in his prime.