sat 24/08/2019

The Price, Wyndham's Theatre review - David Suchet stands supreme | reviews, news & interviews

The Price, Wyndham's Theatre review - David Suchet stands supreme

The Price, Wyndham's Theatre review - David Suchet stands supreme

Powerful production of Arthur Miller's play of fraternal discord, past pain

Caught between two brothers: Adrian Lukis, left, David Suchet, Brendan Coyle© Bill Knight for theartsdesk

There’s a rather sublime equilibrium to Arthur Miller’s 1968 play between the overwhelmingly heavy weight of history and a sheer life force that somehow functions, against all odds, as its counterbalance. But in purely dramatic terms the scales of The Price are tipped from the moment that Gregory Solomon, octogenarian second-hand furniture dealer extraordinaire, wheezes his way into the action. David Suchet’s peerless performance, flavoured with a masterful spiel that puts his character squarely (and knowingly) in the traditions of Jewish comedy, has such bravado insouciance that everything else somehow falls before it.

Jonathan Church’s production, first seen at Theatre Royal Bath last summer, plays at the beginning with an intentional languor, as Victor (Brendan Coyle) slowly, silently explores the place that had defined his early years, the old Manhattan brownstone where he once lived with his father. Designer Simon Higlett’s masterful set, dominated on one side by an elaborate high waterfall of furniture, catches the overcrowded accumulation of a lifetime of which Vic is now determined to rid himself through a quick, job-lot sale to his expected purchaser.The Price, Wyndhams TheatreAs he’s joined by his wife Esther (Sara Stewart, pictured above, with Brendan Coyle), their present – his police career, with its possibilities of early retirement, her discontent, defined around money and assuaged, we increasingly suspect, with drink – is gradually sketched in. But in this environment, it’s clear principally that the present has never really escaped the shadow of its past, in particular Vic’s unresolved relationship with the brother, Walter (Adrian Lukis), that he hasn’t seen in years, and whom he little expects to be seeing now.

But once Suchet’s Solomon arrives, there’s no interfering with his way of doing things. He exists in his own timescale, one which takes into account the decades that extend behind him, and purchase is somehow secondary to procedure here, a whole rigmarole that involves getting-to-know and then some, repetitions and reassessments so elaborate that price may not even be the final factor. His tactics are the antithesis of Vic’s increasingly exasperated requests for a clear price, the “factual” demands of the younger man’s reality set against the old man’s insistent assertions of the value of “viewpoint” (value and price are recurring themes here in every sense).

Miller remorselessly ramps up his re-examination of past choices and motivations

Suchet achieves something that could practically be called “stage capture”, even as dramatic development somewhat stalls, before a second half that introduces, not a moment too soon, the meat of Miller’s drama. Fraternal reunion here is a short fuse that reignites the tensions of four decades earlier, when the Great Depression decimated the circumstances of the brothers’ young lives (it impacted on Miller’s own teenage years every bit as acutely, making this a deeply felt drama). It wasn’t just the abrupt transition from gloried prosperity to almost abject poverty that damaged, but also the psychological sense of their father’s fall being one from which there could be no rebound; the agonised verdict articulated here, that “men don’t bounce”, rings every bit as true for those who did manage to live through it as those who threw themselves out of windows.

These past circumstances have proved fertile ground for festering recriminations. The two brothers had been equally talented as students, but where Walter was able to continue education and eventually became a successful (and rich) surgeon, Vic stayed behind to look after his downcast dad, sacrificing whatever opportunities he might have had for the deadbeat stability of a police career. But even that is only half of a convoluted story that also sets success against the conviction of having done the right thing, as Miller remorselessly ramps up his re-examination of past choices and motivations. (Pictured below, David Suchet, Brendan Coyle)The Price, Wyndhams TheatreIt makes for a rapid-fire denouement, as if after the narrative longeur of its first half The Price is determined to catch up, to conduct as full as possible a psychological inquest in the shortest possible time frame, the periodic reappearances of Solomon serving as tension-breakers in the condensed action. But any such structural shortcomings notwithstanding, Miller gives his characters an encompassing breadth that keeps them both anchored in achingly real circumstances while also embodying something that goes beyond them, a moral reckoning with life, if you like. The Price’s casualties are such that no-one will ever emerge a winner, but we surely feel most strongly for Victor and the endurance with which he has negotiated life’s hardships: Coyle’s performance, perfectly capturing the sheer ungainliness of this unlikely hero, goes the extra mile to bring that home. But if endurance is the decisive factor, it’s Solomon who stands supreme here. Suchet gives a stellar performance, illuminating an already distnguished dramatic firmament. 

Suchet achieves something that could practically be called 'stage capture', even as dramatic development somewhat stalls

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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