Classic still resonating

Kay Masters, who plays Linda Loman, argues with her husband Willy (played by Craig Storey) during a rehearsal for Death of a Saleman. Photo: Linda Robertson
Kay Masters, who plays Linda Loman, argues with her husband Willy (played by Craig Storey) during a rehearsal for Death of a Saleman. Photo: Linda Robertson
Dunedin’s Globe theatre tackles an American classic in Death of a Salesman, in the play’s 70th anniversary year. Rebecca Fox discovers a cast and crew passionate about the play.

Ambition, self-delusion, betrayal, family drama - sounds a bit like one of the reality shows on television every night.

It is, in fact, the script of a 70-year-old play, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman , and the themes are just as relevant today as they were back then.

Paul Ellicott
Paul Ellicott
The story is about Willy Loman, an exhausted travelling salesman who loses his job and is disappointed in his son's lack of accomplishments, which leads to family arguments.

It struck a chord when it premiered in 1949, winning five Tony Awards, and the Globe team hopes it will be just as successful this time around.

''You wouldn't know it is 70 years old,'' actor Craig Storey, who plays Willy Loman, says.

Director Paul Ellicott agrees: ''The story and themes are just as relevant now. That desire for achievement and celebrity, what is always out of our reach is still there today.''

For Storey it is an extremely thought-provoking piece.

''The wonder of what you have not done in life. With Loman, everything about him is contradictory - his uncertainty, the opportunities lost, the opportunities given and regretted are all universal themes.

''It's an incredibly human piece.''

Despite all this, the piece is not ''all tragedy'', Ellicott says.

''There's a few moments of levity.''

It is the first time the Globe has staged the play since the 1970s.

For Ellicott, the play is a challenge, given its history and the expectations that come with it.

''It's such a well-known play, it raises the stakes, but I have a good team to help me.''

With a cast of 12, which is large for a Globe production, it has meant a bit of juggling.

''So far it's been pretty good. There was a lot of interest, people wanted to be involved, so it wasn't a hard sell.''

Storey was his first pick for the role of Loman.

''I'm delighted he's come on board. He's thrown himself into it.''

It is a tough role as Loman is on stage 85% of the time and his relationships with the rest of the cast are pivotal.

For Storey, working with stage son ''Biff'', the underachieving older son (played by Brooke Bray), has been a pleasure.

Loman's fretful wife, Linda, is played by Kay Masters and Biff's younger and better-adjusted brother, Happy, is played by Cain Sleep.

To create the atmosphere, they have raised the stage and adapted the original scripts to fit the smaller Globe theatre space.

''We're going to have a black-and-white urban dystopian theme.''

Ellicott decided not to set the play in a ''time and place'' and chose not to have the actors use American accents.

''We've taken inspiration from the time period. Not having a here and now makes it really relatable.''

To See
Death of a Salesman, The Globe Theatre, February 28-March 9.

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