Death of A Salesman

WRITTEN BY: Arthur Miller
DIRECTED BY: Adam Mitchell
STARRING: John Stanton, Josh McConville, Ben O'Toole, Caroline McKenzie
RATING: 3 stars

Anyone familiar with Arthur Miller's classic work will already know that Death of A Salesman is not exactly an uplifting theatrical experience. But that is not the point. The play is a terrifyingly raw and accurate depiction of the harsh life endured by many working class people in 1940's America. Full of drama and conflict, the play explores themes of family issues, ideals of masculinity and chasing the so-called American dream.

Willy Loman (John Stanton) spent his entire adult life as a travelling salesman but never made the big bucks. Now in his 60's, Willy is still overwhelmed by debt but is also struggling with guilt, self-pity and ailing health. Feeling the weight of his high expectations for his offspring is his son Biff (Josh McConville), the golden child who never fulfilled his potential. Completing the family dynamic is Willy's other son Happy (Ben O'Toole), who is so self-involved he barely even notices that his family is struggling, and Willy's wife Linda (Caroline McKenzie) who tries to keep the men in her life content.

Anyone who has ever witnessed or experienced first-hand a complex father-son relationship will find this play insightful and engaging. The play shows several flashback sequences that display how things have changed for the Loman family over the years. It is a heartbreaking tale, but also one that has a good moral lesson that audiences can take home.

Black Swan Theatre Company's production is impressive with a strong cast who deliver pivotal scenes with conviction. Stanton has a lot of dialogue and emotionally gripping moments, which he performs well, while McConville has one scene in particular that will blow you away. They are backed up well by O'Toole and McKenzie, as well as a supporting cast that includes Igor Sas as Willy's neighbour and perhaps his only true friend, and Eden Falk as Biff's far more successful friend.

The set design is also interesting. The stage is large in its depth but set designers, Alicia Clements and Trent Suidgeest, have not cluttered the area. Instead, there is plenty of space and the actors walk through various doorways around the edges. The central set piece is simply a dining table, but it works well.

Death of A Salesman is now playing at the Heath Ledger Theatre.

Photo courtesy of Robert Frith