The Best of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Death of a Salesman

A Timeless Tragedy Illuminates Contemporary Struggles: ‘Death of a Salesman’ at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne

Arthur Miller’s iconic 1949 masterpiece, ‘Death of a Salesman,’ has made a triumphant return to the stage at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, bringing with it the enduring themes of the American Dream and the plight of the working class. Directed by Neil Armfield, this production remains faithful to Miller’s original script while infusing it with a creative brilliance that will keep audiences spellbound.

Set against the backdrop of late 1940s Brooklyn, ‘Death of a Salesman’ unfolds as a poignant two-act tragedy, weaving together a tapestry of memories, dreams, and impassioned arguments centred around the character of Willy Loman, a traveling salesman beset by despondency and the encroaching spectre of senility. The play, which earned the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play in 1949, resonates deeply in today’s world, where the American Dream often flirts with delusion, and the working-class grapples with the stark realities of contemporary cost of living.

At the helm of this remarkable production is the incomparable Anthony LaPaglia, a veteran of Emmy and Golden Globe fame, renowned in Australian cinema and stage circles. LaPaglia’s portrayal of Willy Loman’s unravelling psyche is nothing short of a revelation. He masterfully captures Loman’s inner turmoil, vividly conveying the character’s confusion and frustration as he fights to preserve his dwindling reputation and a semblance of his once-hopeful dreams. A standout performance is delivered by Alison Whyte, whose portrayal of Linda, Willy’s steadfast wife, is a masterclass in acting. Whyte brings power and depth to Linda’s character, delivering gripping monologues that tug at the audience’s heartstrings. The chemistry between Josh Helman and Sean Keenan, who play Biff and Happy, Willy and Linda’s sons, is electric. Their performances reflect the burden of living up to their father’s expectations, a reflection of his own insecurities and shattered dreams. The interplay between these characters is a testament to the cast’s extraordinary talent.

Neil Armfield’s direction is a stroke of genius, weaving a web of suspense and energy that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the nearly three-hour runtime.

The set design, recreating Ebbets Field, is a creative triumph. It offers various levels that the cast utilizes brilliantly, allowing the ensemble to observe each scene like ghosts of the past. This ingenious design choice enhances the significance of the Loman family’s memories, laced with creative liberties to align with their delusional vision of the American Dream. The ensemble’s nuanced reactions add layers of depth and complexity to the production, manipulating the mood with their subtle responses to the unfolding drama. The play’s lighting and sound design contribute to the creation of a suspenseful atmosphere, amplifying the rising tension that propels the narrative toward its climactic finale.

In summation, ‘Death of a Salesman’ at Her Majesty’s Theatre is a tour de force production that marries Arthur Miller’s timeless vision with Neil Armfield’s creative direction. It serves as a stark reminder of the enduring relevance of Miller’s themes in today’s world, where the pursuit of dreams and the weight of economic realities continue to shape the human experience. This is a must-see performance that will leave audiences deeply moved and contemplative long after the curtain falls. 

Tickets are currently on sale through to October 15. For more information or to book tickets, check: Death of a Salesman

Written by: Michael Kent

Images: Jeff Busby