Review by Paul Nelson
ARTHUR Miller is one of America's most distinguished playwrights,
though in my book he does not come near the top five, my list
being headed by Lillian Hellman.
On examining why this should be so, I find the construction of
his plays to be dated, they trudge slowly along and cry out for
a director to galvanise them.
Typical is The Price, currently on show at the Apollo.
It first emerged in 1968, though that does not necessarily point
up its dated faults; rather it shows the necessity of having an
imaginative director, which the present production lacks.
The slow, earnest quality of the writing is unaided from the
front and the evening is heavy going.
The play strongly points out Miller's pet themes, loyalty and
honour to family, insecure relationships and business success
or failure. Here we have the competitiveness of two brothers examined
under the Miller microscope.
The successful businessman, on the one hand, the plodding cop
about to retire, on the other.
Their relationship, never a strong one, with always an undercurrent
of wariness, finally cracks. Their meeting should and could have
been avoided, the subsequent clash between the two is therefore
contrived and unnecessary.
The catalyst for all this is the selling up of the junk in the
attic of the family home on the death of their father. Both profess
not to want any of it and both are ready to accept the low offer
for the job lot, but as they go through the effects with an elderly
but sharp Jewish dealer, the possibility that there might be something
worth more than sentimental value comes up, and their sentiments
about the belongings bubbles into their feelings about each other.
Workmanlike as the play is, it never really grabs the audience
and one wonders is that the fault of the performances or the director?
The truth is, it lies somewhere between the two.
As the oddly named Victor (he isn't), Larry Lamb has to present
a man of action due for retirement and keen not to make waves.
Passivity has become his mode of behaviour and this does not help
the play or the actor.
Playing an inactive man of action needs some sort of superhuman
ability and my sympathies go to Mr Lamb and my congratulations
for tackling the part. It is not the actor's fault the role does
not pay off.
Warren Mitchell, who plays the dealer, Solomon, has a much clearer
path to tread.
He finds irresistible the temptation to emphasise the heavier
Jewish lines, and getting his laughs in, whilst delighting his
fans, disrupts the smoothness of the play's progress.
It is left to Des McAleer, as successful brother, Walter, to
energise the evening, which he does with a remarkable degree of
ability, indeed, without his sureness of character, the play would
have been difficult to sit through, so prosaic is it.
Neither is the play helped by the set, an attic room in a New
York brownstone in which all the furniture has been hurled as
by a centrifuge around three of the walls, the fourth wall having
missed this splattering.
The junk makes way to two armchairs and a gap for the action
to take place giving the set the air of a rehearsal room.
To put my impression of the evening in a nutshell, at two and
a half hours the price is too high, it is a heavy plod through
a sticky plot.
The Price by Arthur Miller, Directed by Sean Holmes, Design
by Anthony Lamble, Lighting designed by Simon Bennison, Sound
design Mike Thacker. WITH: Larry Lamb (Victor), Sian Thomas (Esther),
Warren Mitchell (Solomon), Des McAleer (Walter). Presented by
Tricycle London Productions and ACT Productions in association
with Matthew Mitchell at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue,
London W1. Tickets 0870 890 1101