ARTHUR Miller’s play The Price, written in 1968 at the end of what is regarded as his greatest period, draws from his own experiences of the Depression.
Two brothers, both with great student promise, have gone different ways. One is a successful doctor, the other a policeman. It’s 16 years after the death of their father and they have not spoken since. Now it is 1968 and the building where he lived is about to be demolished. Victor and Walter have to confront the reality of getting rid of his stuff – a whole house of furniture crowded into the attic where he lived after his fortune evaporated in the Great Depression.
Miller addresses family conflict, disappointed dreams and the inevitability of history repeating itself with his usual incisive craftsmanship.
Policeman Victor and his frustrated wife Esther have been waiting for their lives to get better almost since they met, but Victor’s ethical prevarications mean that nothing has happened.
Now they are waiting in the furniture-strewn attic for the arrival of Gregory Solomon, the furniture dealer. When he eventually arrives they are surprised at his age. He’s nearly 90, he tells them, and they must have found his number in a very old phone book. But once a dealer ….
As Solomon dispenses words of wit and wisdom the dance begins, and only as he finally makes an offer does Walter arrive on the scene with a very different take on what should be happening.
Jonathan Church’s tight and multi-faceted production, performed on Simon Higlett’s brilliantly evocative set, could hardly be played better than by David Suchet as the wily old Russian emigre Jew, Adrian Lukis as the doctor, Sara Stewart as Esther and Brendan Coyle giving the performance of his life as Victor.
Suchet’s particular skill is to inhabit the bodies of his characters. We remember Poirot’s walk, Lady Bracknell’s theatrical bombast, and now Gregory Solomon’s wicked, tripping smile.
There are marvellously funny moments and moments of searing pain as the story unfolds. The Price is about much more than the value of brown furniture once it’s gone out of fashion. It is on stage at Bath until 25th August.
Photographs by Nobby Clark