Death Of A Salesman
Edinl )urgh: King's Theatre, Tue 4—Sat 8 Mill.
Whe n the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis decided to produce Arthur Miller's play This Price, they asked Miller who should dii‘e ct it. He told them: get Thacker. De spite being English, David Thacker is now seen as the world's leading 1 dir e ctor of Miller's work and has formed a ( lose alliance with the grand old man . . of American theatre. '
It 1 1995, Glasgow audiences saw Th gicker‘s production of Miller‘s latest pl; iy, Broken Glass. He later directed it fo r the BBC World Service, then in He :brew for an Israeli production, then , _ as a film. Now he's back in Scotland if?“ ‘ " . wi th the Royal National Theatre ’ pr« oduction of Miller's famous modern tre igedy, Death Of A Salesman.
‘l .t‘s like a great symphony in its scale - he i introduces its themes so delicately and imaginatively,’ sa ys Thacker of the.- 48-year-old masterpiece. ‘Past events ar e lying hidden deep in the psychology of the central ch aracter and they eventually force themselves out. A lot of his plays are about denial, and the way in which pc :ople can't face up to the significance of things they he ive done in the past.‘
(Dne central theme of the play is the souring of the A merican Dream — that optimistic but hollow idea that a p rosperous nation could be built on individual endeavour. Another is the strengths and stresses of m airriage and the family. Have half a century of social and political upheaval not dulled the relevance of these t'nemes? Miller doesn't think so. ‘While there've been tremendous changes in the country as far as marriage is c o'ncerned, there are fundamental things that don't really (l'l ange in a revolutionary fashion,’ says the playwright. The attitude of parents and the demands made by the
All my sons: Alun Armstrong (left) as Willy Loman, with Corey Johnson and Mark Strong as his sons Happy and Biff
young are pretty much the same as they used to be. Whether they're gratified or frustrated is another story.’ A back operation put paid to Miller‘s customary week or so with Thacker in rehearsals. Instead, the four main cast members spent a week as delegates at an international theatre conference in Salzburg, where Miller and Thacker were guests of honour. ‘What actors find is that if they listen to what Arthur Miller says about his plays, they have no wish other than to serve what he's trying to do,’ says Thacker. ‘You‘ve got to play them like Shakespeare, really - emotionally powerful and truthful, with a great attention to language and rhythm. Also, the actors have to be pretty bright to grasp the ideas because they're not simple plays.‘ (Andrew Burnet) I David Thacker’s film of Broken Glass is screened on Sat 29 Mar, as part of BBCZ’s Performance series. See also Arthur Miller feature, page 9
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Should auld acquaintance be forgot: Stanley receives a blast from his past in The Arches Theatre's production of The Birthday Party
tension between the Stanley and the two strangers. Meanwhile a game of blind man’s buff takes on the sinister edge of Murder In The Dark for Stanley, and a night of unrelenting psychological torture ensues.
’All we know for definite is that Stanley’s been hiding in the boarding house for a year,’ explains director Muireann Kelly. ’We don’t know what he has done, but whatever it is, it catches up with him in the form of these two men. He’s then taken on this rollercoaster ride of sheer terror.’
On its first outing in 1958, The Birthday Party was pulled after a week, with one critic rebuking Pinter for being ’just not funny enough.’ But Kelly is confident that today’s audiences are ready for the challenge. ’In those days, Beckett was still to come out of the woodwork and people were used to having the ends neatly tied up,‘ she argues. ’But Pinter doesn't do that. He poses lots of questions and possibilities
DRAMA Theatre Galore — is set at a boarding . house in a sleepy seaside resort, where The Blrthday Party Stanley is on the run and livmg a near-
Glasgow: The Arches,Tue 4—Sat 15 Mar.
A birthday surprise turns into an horrific nightmare for Stanley, the protagonist in the macabre classic The Birthday Party. Harold Pinter's first full-length play - which is being co-produced in Glasgow by the Arches Company and
reclusive exustence. Awakening on his birthday he looks forward to another reassuringly mundane day until two all- too-familiar faces, Goldberg and McCann, arrive on the scene.
The new guests bring terror into Stanley's safe haven and at a birthday party thrown in his honour, the revellers remain ignorant of the mounting
but doesn’t offer any answers.‘
It’s certainly no summer holiday for Stanley as the doom and gloom lets up for only moments of dark humour, but Kelly believes the play is as relevant today as it ever was. ’Every generation has stands to be taken and there are always peOple who’ll tell you to shut up and who will censor you» McCann and Goldberg could represent any fascist regime - Nazism, the IRA or the UDA.’ (Claire Prentice)
new shows THEATRE
Jack Dee City Hall, Glasgow, Sat 28 Feb.
Known to millions as one of Britain's top funnymen (or else as ’the guy off the beer adverts with the penguins') Jack Dee is now a household name. He's come a long way since his debut at London's Comedy Store in 1988. ’It was fairly hellish,’ he remembers. 'It was a Thursday night and I went on at about two o’clock in the morning. I did get a laugh with something that I said, and I was hooked.’
What about his trademark glumness, laced with a dash of sarcasm? ’I always say that stand-up, when it works, is about taking an aspect of your character and magnifying it,’ he explains. ’So it’s a sort of enlargement of a natural aspect of myself. Stand- up, for me, didn’t really start working until I was relaxing into it and being myself, rather than trying to cover it up with a slightly more upbeat delivery.’
Dee is incredibly prolific. As well as sell-out tours and his critically acclaimed Channel 4 series, he moved into acting with shows such as Jack & Jeremy’s Real Lives (also for Channel 4), in which he co-starred with political satirist Jeremy Hardy. In 1995, he moved into more mainstream territory with lack Dee’s Saturday Night, of which a second series is planned for September. He even co-hosted Top Of The Pops with ijrk.
Also, watch out for The Grim/eys, a one-off comedy/drama from Granada, in which Dee stars alongside Nigel Planer, Samantha Janus and Noddy Holder, former singer of the glam-rock group Slade. ’It’s set in the 70s and follows the school career of a young lad from the Midlands,’ he explains. 'His life is made a misery by a PE teacher, played by myself.’
As if all this wasn’t enough, he’s on the road again. ’I haven’t toured for eighteen months,’ he says with enthusiasm that belies his stage persona, ’so I’m really looking forward to it.’ (Scott Montgomery)
I The Grim/eys is due to air on Scottish Television sometime in the
Jack Dee: scowling for Britain
21Feb—6 Mar l997T|lEUST81