6th November 2023
Round two of LUDS for this semester. With their performance of the late 1940s classic ‘Death Of A Salesman’ written by Arthur Miller. Dealing with themes such as the American dream, suicidal ideation, and deteriorating parental relationships, the play presents a challenging undertaking. On top of that, the play’s setting in New York brings an actor’s worst enemy, a Big Apple accent. Despite this, the cast and crew of Death Of A Salesman confronted these challenges head-on, creating an emotional and visually stunning performance of a challenging play.
Death of a Salesman is a tragic play consisting of two acts, unfolding in late 1940s Brooklyn. The narrative unfolds through a series of memories, dreams, and arguments experienced by the main character, Willy Loman, a travelling salesman deeply disheartened by how his life has ended up as he gradually descends into senility. The play also focuses on the consequences of Willy’s actions, particularly his relationship with his son — Biff Loman — and the infidelity Willy commits. At its heart, the play is a criticism of the American Dream and what it creates, in Miller’s eyes instability, deception, and the collapse of the family. The play achieved incredible critical success, securing not only the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, but also earning recognition from some as the greatest play of the 20th century.
Both leads, Willy Loman (played by Charlie Maddox) and Linda Loman (played by Gracie Brennan) showed an unbelievable emotional depth that created strong emotional reactions in the audience. Charlie’s performance was full of passion and made me feel genuine sympathy for Willy Loman. His ability to switch between almost blind rage and complete calm portrayed Willy exactly as I read him, fickle and more unsure of who he is. Gracie’s portrayal of Linda Loman was heartbreaking, a woman desperately trying to keep her family afloat and together. Her best moment, in my opinion, was during the funeral scene, a poignant moment. Realisations hit her surrounding her husband, and she grapples with his suicide, Gracie in this scene was incredibly believable. I think this moment created a few tears in the audience, purely because of the emotion on stage.
The other standout performances come from the Loman’s Sons, Biff Loman (played by Joel Chiverton) and Happy Loman (played by Libby Thompson). These two as a duo were the highlight of the play for me, never failing to provide comedic moments and deeply emotional performances. They flawlessly portrayed both the closeness and complexities of sibling relationships through childhood into adulthood. Emotive performances were paired with unfaltering and convincing Brooklyn accents. The chemistry between the two created an incredibly realistic sibling relationship, highlighted particularly in argument scenes between Biff and Willy Loman. The pair’s best moment was in the restaurant scene, where they both showed the absolute desperation their characters were feeling surrounding their father. Additionally, Joel and Libby’s performances in the funeral scene were as convincing and emotive as Gracie’s.
The production team and crew delivered an astounding performance, surpassing typical student production expectations by a considerable margin. Costuming — by Elinor Jenkins — thrust the audience immediately into 1940s Brooklyn, particularly the gorgeous dresses donned by Linda Loman (played by Gracie Brennan). The lighting team’s, choices perfectly added to the experience and atmosphere of the play, particularly during scenes that were a combination of flashbacks and ongoing events. While largely minimal staging kept the focus on the scenes themselves, the restaurant scene in Act Two provided some needed comedic relief in an otherwise serious play.
Overall, the cast and crew outdid themselves across the board, from the pure emotion on stage to the staging and lighting, they should all be incredibly proud. Congratulations to director Lewis Thacker and the rest of the cast and crew!
Header photo credit: https://instagram.com/jpophotos?igshid=MzMyNGUyNmU2YQ==