Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Death of a Salesman

By Arthur Miller
Royal Exchange, Manchester

“I’m very foolish to look at, Linda!” wails the tragicomic hero, Willy Loman, at a crucial moment in Arthur Miller’s American classic about personal and professional failure. Yet in this generally solid revival in Manchester, we think: no, Willy, you’re not. In a colour-blind miscasting, Don Warrington plays the sad, sixtysomething salesman at the end of his tether. With his natural composure, however, this fine actor never looks like a man struggling to keep it together. Other things work better. The staging in the round suits the non-linear concept of time, as Loman spins into wistful reminiscence. And the rest of the cast is terrific, especially Maureen Beattie as his saintly wife and Tom Hodgkins as their sympathetic neighbour. Yet this Willy remains too sane. It’s only in the final showdown with his feckless, reckless son Biff (Ashley Zhangazha) that Warrington really melds with the role. “Spite!” he roars, and in that majestic moment of denial, there’s a Lear-like grandeur.