The greatest surprise of Death of a Salesman is how searingly relevant this classic play still is to our technology obsessed society 70 years later. 

This Queensland Theatre production is one of many shows around the world from London to India to Washington breathing new life into Arthur Miller’s timeless play, to celebrate this year’s 70th anniversary of its Broadway debut.

It’s the quintessential melancholy tribute to the great American Dream, but it’s also the life of the everyday human laid bare. While the characters in this Queensland Theatre production have stayed very much in the costumes and surrounds of the era in which it was written, the echoes of lines about the pointlessness of the mortgage cycle can be heard today at any Australian barbecue.

This show is incredibly well produced – the doll’s house-esque set that lays bare the inner layout of their home makes the audience feel as if they are eavesdropping on intimate conversations through the walls that eventually become Willy’s (played by Peter Kowitz) mental prison.

Miller’s incisive script was delivered with great humanity and emotion by the cast under the direction of Jason Klarwein, who judges the timing variations needed for this heavy piece perfectly.  The harrowing scenes between Willy (Peter Kowitz) and his once sports prodigy son Biff (Thomas Larkin) are particularly poignant.

They make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat as if you are privy to family conversations that you shouldn’t be part of, but wish you could stop.

As the pressures of keeping up with society’s demands enfold Willy, his decent into madness is evocatively portrayed with flashes of overlapping memories and off hand conversations that prove to be his undoing.

Angie Millken & Peter Kowitz in Death of a Salesman

Angie Milliken shows beautiful sensitivity in her portrayal of Linda Loman, and how her naive and misguided loyalty to her husband Willy tragically escalates to the descent of her family altogether. Kevin Hides as Uncle Ben showed subtly yet powerfully how the undercurrent of racism is a powerful force in the family’s undoing.

One of the standout performers was Jackson McGovern in his Queensland Theatre debut as son Happy Loman, and then deftly moving to the character of Howard, Willy’s wet under the ears boss whose insensitivity and slavery to the almighty dollar ensures Willy’s demise.

 

★★★★

Death of a Salesman plays the playhouse Theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) until 2 March 2019. For more information, visit their website here.