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Review: The Price

Miller's tale of broiges is hard to fault

Octagon Theatre, Bolton

    Kenneth Alan Taylor (right) plays the Jewish furniture dealer in Arthur Miller’s powerful four-hander
    Kenneth Alan Taylor (right) plays the Jewish furniture dealer in Arthur Miller’s powerful four-hander

    The stage looks like a jumble sale, crammed as it with tables, chairs, chests of drawers, and bric-a-brac.

    It works as a powerful metaphor. Two brothers have been brought together after a 16-year estrangement, but can they clear the emotional debris between them and retrieve anything of value?

    There are some seriously big conversations as they pick over the clutter in the attic flat of their late father, before his old apartment is bulldozed. Simmering rivalries and resentments finally boil over as they negotiate the price of furniture and confront the price of failure.

    Victor (Tom Mannion) is the beat-weary New York cop approaching retirement. He sacrificed an academic career while his brother Walter (Colin Stinton) succeeded as a doctor and made millions running care homes, but divorced and lost touch with his children.

    Arthur Miller's play is a beautifully observed, powerful and profound piece, with just the two brothers, Victor's wife Esther (Susan Sylvester) and the enigmatic and very Jewish furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon (Kenneth Alan Taylor), on stage. Solomon does not use the word, but there is no doubt he would recognise that there is a broiges in full swing here.

    Each character is linked to the other three in an ever-shifting dramatic Venn diagram

    David Thacker, who directed The Price at the Old Vic 21 years ago and who built up a friendship with Miller, gives all four characters space to develop in the cramped flat. Each one is emotionally credible, intricately linked to the other three in an ever-shifting dramatic Venn diagram.

    They are brought closer together - and further apart - as they dig deeper and deeper into buried secrets and age-old recriminations.

    Victor bristles with frustration. He is bitter and suspicious. Beneath his uniform and a life of service is a talented man who never fulfilled his potential. He cared for his penniless father while his brother went off to university.

    The impressive Mannion plays docile and furious and many of the shades in between.

    Taylor is strong too as the dealer Solomon, a character who at 89-years-old retains a sharp mind behind his shambling exterior, and who shuffles onto the stage, exuding Jewishness.

    Victor's wife Esther, played by Sylvester as slightly alcoholic, slightly grasping, slightly Lady Macbeth, pushes Victor to make a decent deal with Solomon for the possessions left behind by father.

    This is an intense experience and works very well in the round at the Octagon, with the audience so close to the action. The American accents jar slightly - though it would be a brave director who did it without - but that aside, it is hard to fault.

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