Sales force

As a new production of an Arthur

Miller classic comes to town. Mark

Fisher talks to its star, Timothy West. '

The last time Timothy West was in Glasgow he was starring in Eugene ()‘Neill's Long Day’s Jottrney into Night with his wife Prunella Scales in the National Theatre touring production. Now while Scales is tip to her neck in sand in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days in lingland. West returns to the Theatre Royal in the lead role of Arthur Miller's [)(‘tli/i aft: .S'a/csnian in a Theatr (.‘lwyd production directed by Janet Suzman. ‘lt's very full-blooded.' says West after a successful opening week in North Wales. ‘Janet has quite rightly tried to expunge any kind of sentimentality. which I've sometimes found in other productions of it. it can slip over into sentimentality. even a kind of

romanticism. and she‘s really gone for that and torn it

to pieces.‘

The character of Willy Loman (a surname like that could only spell tragedy) is one of the most memorable creations of 20th century drama, a man who bought the American Dream only to see it sell him short. Losing his job as a lowly but once

prosperous salesman at the age of 63. Loman turns to

suicide in order to save his family from penury. Where once this drama spoke directly to the American nation. now the rise of the enterprise culture has sent its resonances across the world. as Miller himself documented in Salesman in Beijing. an account of his staging of the play in China. ‘I

don't think people are sitting there saying. “My God. i

this is a searing indictment of consumer society. Marjorie. isn‘t it?” because it's about so many

Timothy West as Willy loman

things.‘ says West. ‘But it perhaps touches people very nearly at the moment. On a domestic level. the difficulties that so many families experience in being able to pay the next instalment on the fridge. whether they can afford to get the car mended. whether they can stump tip the next payment on the insurance; that kind of thing speaks very readily to people now.‘ Miller is reported to be ‘delighted~ that the 58-year- old actor is playing the role for the first time and indeed. it‘s a role that West himself is delighted to be playing. He does admit. however, that had he approached the role ten or twenty years ago, he

would have made a less persuasive job of it. ‘I think all Miller‘s senior characters. the people who have families. are very substantial people. 1 mean really quite complex. and they have a lot of feelings that you cart only appreciate if you are a certain age. I now know what it feels like to have two perfectly grown—up sons which is an enormous help. l'nless

L you‘ve actually got that situation —- not that l have

those kind of problems with children. you understand! ~ but you do look at it from a different direction.‘

‘I don’t think people are sitting there saying, “My God, this is a searing indictment of consumer society, Marjorie, isn’t it?”

And helping him look in that direction is Janet Suzman who. like West in his time. is pursuing the

twin career of actor and. in this case. director. Like those who have worked with Kenneth Branagh in

Renaissance or. closer to home. with the actors'

company Rain Dog, West praises the directorial

sensitivity that only an actor's experience can bring. ‘We've known each other for a very long timc.’ says

\Nest, ‘we were at the RS(’ together in the rnid-ol)s. btrt this is the first time he been directed by her and

she's a very exciting director. She's been at it a few years. she did a very good ()I/It'f/r) in South Africa with the Market Theatre ('ompany in Johannesburg

and we saw that on television and l was immensely impressed. She has that gift of bringing things out of i you that you probably haven't bothered or haven’t

dared to do, because she knows how actors take

refuge in things that they know how to do, or ways ' that they know a thing works. She says. sod that. go

at it from a different angle and see what happens. And that’s very exciting.‘

Dr’tll/I ({I‘a .S'a/(dvntan. flit'tlll?’ Royal. (ilasemt, Tue

9 Sat I} Mall:

Aipple sellers w

You know those bits in Eldorado when the Fernandez family or some other non-native English speakers converse, conspiratorially or otherwise, in their native tongue? And no matter how furtlve or garbled the exchange is, you i can read their intentions like a roadside billboard? And how it frequently makes more sense than the -‘ whole of the English-speaking fraternity put together? Graobh nan Ubhal purports to be like that, only minus the atrocious script, excrutlating acting and with afar more austere setting.

Tramway calls it a ‘new Tower of Babel’ but director Alastair McDonald claims Domnhall Buadh’s til-lingual play - it translates as The Apple Tree, I

or The Aipple Tree, to be sensitive to the Grampian dialect - will be accessible even to linguistic dunces. The performance piece, a collaboration between the Invisible Bouncers Theatre Company from the east coast and new Gaelic company Drama na h-Alba from the west coast,


Scotland’s Tri-lingual culture in The Aipple Tree

features some English-speaking characters, some Gaelic speakers and some who speak Doric, a strong north- east dialect which Mcnonald explains ‘comes from a Gaelic base and in the same way has come from the spoken word, the bothy ballads of the north- east and the Scots tradition of fiddle



The play traces the offshore and

' onshore fortunes of the people who work on the North Sea oil platforms

‘and how they are drawn to these alien structures for financial reasons in the

drawn to the sea to fish the herring and drawn to the cities for the Industrial Revolution.

‘We’re talking about what it does to people to go offshore, because in rural communities the natural rhythms of life are very organised. In winter you don’t do much and in summer you work hard, whereas the oil industry doesn’t take into account people’s sensibilities. Coming from Aberdeen, I’ve had first-hand experience about what the two weeks on, two weeks off syndrome is doing to families.’ (Fiona Shepherd)

Graobh nan Ubhal, Tramway, Glasgow, Thurs 4-Sat 6 Mar.


same way that in times past they were ;


The List 26 February—l l March 1993 43