Review: Death of a Salesman

Queensland Theatre brings Arthur Miller’s classic play to life.

Synopsis

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller focuses on the middle-class Loman family – father Willy, mother Linda and two sons Biff and Happy. Willy is a travelling salesman who’s failed ambition for his family leads to tragic circumstances.

Our review

Death of a Salesman is widely considered a critique of America’s flawed capitalist system and the dangling carrot of the American Dream. Queensland Theatre’s take on the aged classic, however, focuses heavily on the way traditionally masculine values and expectations can destroy family bonds.

The play is based in the 1940s, but the strained relationship between father Willy Loman (Peter Kowitz) and son Biff Loman (Thomas Larkin) is still relevant as the play celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2019.

The need to be someone and be liked while earning financial freedom ends up driving Willy Loman into an early grave, while also alienating his oldest son. Willy and Biff’s relationship becomes increasingly more fractured throughout the play, as we see the extent of Willy’s disappointment in his son and the betrayal Biff feels from Willy.

Larkin plays the disenchanted son well as he hides his father’s secret to protect his family. His portrayal of Biff is layered while also staying within the realms of reality and relatability.

Kowitz’s performance, on the other hand, does not provide the texture needed to keep the audience engaged with the relationship. He rages and rages and then rages some more, to the point where we can no longer understand him, nor do we care. He also made the role more physically demanding than necessary, making Willy feel forced and unbelievable.

In saying this, Kowitz still gave a good performance. He seamlessly moved from past to present and gave us a feverish glimpse into the decaying mind of a man facing the impotence of old age.

Jackson McGovern and Angie Milliken as Happy Loman and Linda Loman didn’t disappoint, despite becoming props sacrificed for the stories of Biff and Willy.   

The set and costume designers Richard Roberts and Anthony Spinaze did well in creating a homely, middle class world. The simple house and choice of clothing signified everything that is comfortable, familiar but ultimately unworldly.

Kowitz’s statement that Willy is worth more dead than alive, as he borrows money to pay his life insurance, should be warning to all that hard work does not always equal money or happiness. It can instead blind us to what is important in life until it is too late.

Final verdict: 4/5

Directed by

Jason Klarwein

Starring

Peter Kowitz, Angie Milliken, Thomas Larkin, Jackson McGovern, Sarah Ogden, Charles Allen, Kevin Hides, Ilai Swindells and Gemma Willing

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