Death of a Salesman at Harrogate

At a time when we are trying to make sense of what is going on the other side of the Atlantic, what better than to experience Arthur Miller’s tragedy about the American Dream, Death of a Salesman? Particularly when the play is given an outstanding performance, such as that offered by the Harrogate Dramatic Society. Rachel Conyers’ production presented the piece not as a literal representation of Willy Loman’s life, but rather as a series of dramatic episodes taking place within his mind. Aided by evocative music and variations of lighting, she was thus able deftly to merge illusion and reality, the past and the present.

Stuart Newsome gave an astonishing portrayal of Willy, living half in the fantasy of success as a businessman and father, half in a life of abject failure and disillusionment. His face alone said it all: at one moment creased with anguish and pathos; at the next, unfolding to a beaming image of deluded self-satisfaction. As his loyal wife, Jenny Antram has to share in his false aspirations, yet confront the harsh reality of making ends meet and observing the disintegration of the family around her. She too was superb.

But, without exception, all of the cast were excellent, projecting absorbing characterisations with authentic East Coast accents. To pick out ┬ájust a few: James Willstrop at the lanky, ineffectual son Biff, unable to communicate with his father; Paul Dunstan as the quirky but compassionate neighbour Charley; Mike Garside as Willy’s successful brother Ben who slides in and out of the proceedings to haunt him.

The play is an A level set text and understandably the audience came largely from schools. Pity if this means that many HDS loyal supporters will miss out on a remarkable evening of powerful drama.