Review: Death of a Salesman ****

It is so good to see the Quarry Theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse being used to its full potential again.

Recent shows seem to have forgotten how extraordinary a stage this is. This production, if nothing else, will make you fall in love with that space all over again.

It will do a number of other things as well.

It will remind you of how remarkable Miller was, a colossus of a playwright.

It will remind you that Willy Loman is a tragic hero to

rival Hamlet.

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It will remind you that a story well told on stage can hold enormous, transformative power.

Director Sarah Esdaile could be regarded as a little young to take on such a play. Although a Miller fanatic, Esdaile is still developing her career, but audiences should be so grateful that the Playhouse had the nerve to give her this opportunity.

The stunning clarity in the directing of this production is a major reason Miller's text sings through.

When it arrived in 1949, Salesman broke all the rules.

Willy Loman, the eponymous hero of the piece, is breaking down. We see, first hand, the end of the breakdown and watch the memories playing out in his head, happen on stage.

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It was the most powerful of ideas – a play which took the rule book of time and place and threw it out of the window. Why couldn't we travel back to when Biff and Hap, Loman's boys, were younger? Why couldn't the past overlap with the present? Miller asked.

Since Miller's theatrical innovation, many others have done much bolder things with the stage, which means contemporary productions of this play tend to try too hard to surpass the original.

Esdaile doesn't fall into this trap. She simply tells Miller's story as faithfully and as powerfully as she can.

And it is magnificent.

Philip Jackson, the ubiquitous TV actor, seemed a strange choice for Willy. He has proved any naysayers very wrong with a towering – and crumbling – performance.

Like his director's, his is a magnificent achievement.

As Biff, Lex Shrapnel is as impressive, and the set is beautiful.

There is not much more to say other than this is everything a leading regional theatre should be doing.

To May 29.

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