Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Price

Arthur Miller
Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse co-production
Nottingham Playhouse
(2009)

Production photo

It's unusual for two theatres 55 miles apart to stage the same play in a season. It's even more uncommon for two venues to have the same play running at the same time, even if it's for only four days.

But that's exactly what's happened with Arthur Miller's The Price.

The American playwright's dissection of the strained relationship between two brothers when they meet up after sixteen years to dispose of their father's furniture would resonate at any time and in any country. Hardly surprising then that two Midlands theatres should choose to revive Miller's late masterpiece.

So three weeks after watching The Price in the round at Newcastle-under-Lyme's New Vic, I sat in Nottingham Playhouse's auditorium to watch a second version with a different cast and backstage team.

From the start it's evident that designer Dawn Allsopp enjoyed herself filling the stage with tables, chairs, dressers, wardrobes and all the paraphernalia that an old man would collect over his life. The look is stunning.

The Price is set in 1960s New York and news bulletins detailing events from that time are heard before policeman Victor Franz makes his entrance.

Robin Kingsland, last seen at Nottingham Playhouse in On the Waterfront, declined an offer to continue in Steven Berkoff's production which has transferred to the West End so that he could take the role of Victor.

His is a magnificent portrayal. He's totally credible as a police officer - you wouldn't want to be taken into custody to help him with his inquiries - and he's determined not to be taken for a fool by his brother or the furniture salesman who comes to clear the house. Yet he shows vulnerability and sincerity, preferring to accept his father as a "beaten dog", rather than the "calculating liar" he's revealed to be.

Kingsland has a terrific verbal dual with Jon Rumney who plays the furniture salesman. His facial expressions are often a delight. However, Rumney who initially appears breathless after climbing up the stairs to the apartment seems far too sprightly for an 89-year-old with a wheezy chest.

Elaine Claxton as Victor's wife Esther gets some delightful lines as she bullies her husband yet resolutely defends him when he comes under attack from Walter. But she rarely shows the brittleness of a character who's struggling with alcoholism as well as coming to terms with Victor's being inferior to his brother.

David Beames superbly presents Walter, the brother who put his medical training above everything, as a hard, duplicitous, unpleasant man who tries to buy Victor's friendship to make up for the lost years.

Giles Croft, celebrating his tenth anniversary as artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse, directs sensitively yet there are times when the tension would have benefited from a bit of a boost.

This is the first co-production between the Nottingham theatre and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. If this fine interpretation is anything to go by, the partnership ought to continue at virtually any price.

"The Price" continues until March 28th

Reviewer: Steve Orme