The Price

Arthur Miller
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
(2003)

Those who know Death of a Salesman will see much that is familiar in this 1968 reflection on the Depression. The two sons, chalk and cheese, with a father who has lost everything and deep moral debate are all recognisable.

The Price also has a marvellous comic character, Russian-Jewish Gregory Solomon, played with gusto by Warren Mitchell, who might well win an award for his performance.

Solomon is a 90 year old appraiser, four times married, four times bankrupt. He comes to look at an attic full of "junk" (designed by Anthony Lamble) and ends up helping to dissect memories for the pair of brothers.

Solomon is a man who has seen everything and in some ways is more of a therapist than a furniture dealer. He crackles with wit and happily advises on personal matters.

He has been called in by Victor (the name cannot help but be significant) and Esther. They have apparently lived an unfulfilled life. Larry Lamb's Victor is an intelligent policeman who sacrificed ambition to support his destroyed father, a millionaire who lost everything.

As the turquoise-suited Esther, Sian Thomas portrays a snobbish disappointed woman who would have loved a trophy husband, perhaps her doctor brother-in-law Walter (Des McAleer).

The brothers meet in the family attic for the first time in over a decade as it is about to be symbolically knocked down. This allows Miller to explore their lives and the divergence of paths. As a result we see self-delusion changing to self-knowledge with remarkable rapidity. The real question that is asked is "What is success?", does it guarantee happiness and should ethics and morality come into the equation?

This transfer from The Tricycle is well-directed by Sean Holmes, who combines the comedy of the relaxed old man toying with the innocent couple in the first half with something darker as conflict arises thereafter. He is greatly helped by a very strong cast performing well together in a really excellent production.

Philip Fisher