Continuing their run of Arthur Miller plays (this is the fourth in five years), Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum brings director John Dove’s latest adaptation to the stage in the shape of The Price, 1968’s investigation of family and society in early 20th century America.
Returning to his late fathers soon-to-be-demolished apartment to sell what remains of his furniture collection, police sergeant Victor Franz (Greg Powrie) discusses his upcoming retirement with wife Esther (Sally Edwards) as antique dealer Solomon (James Hayes) arrives.
As Victor and Solomon work on a deal for the complete collection, Victor’s older brother Walter (Aden Gillett) turns up, prompting memories of the past to resurface in both brothers as the spectre of their father hangs over them.
As with many Miller scripts, family, loyalty and memory are crucial elements of The Price. From the opening moments, as Victor stalks the room where he and his father spent so much time eking out a living after the 1929 Wall Street Crash, we’re can see the past colliding with the present.
The furniture piled high around the set and the music on the gramophone reinforces Victor’s memories of his youth, the arrival of Walter and his remembrance of the past yet another blow to Victor’s somewhat fragile grasp on his own recollections.
Miller touches upon a number of social factors to show how Victor and Walter came to be at loggerheads, slowly dropping hints and uncovering secrets that help the audience understand their history. Nothing is clear-cut and doubt is thrown upon our allegiance to Victor as the put-upon son.
Returning to the Lyceum stage following his appearance in 2009’s The Man Who Had All the Luck, Powrie once again proves himself capable of showing the many facets of a character with apparent ease, Victor’s affable side gradually evaporating as the play progresses.
Gillett is equally relaxed, depicting Walter as a man sensibly taking the chances offered to him and not one cynically leaving his brother behind to fend for himself. Edwards and Hayes offer decent support, Hayes in particular raising laughs throughout with his performance.
Designer Michael Taylor and lighting designer Jeanine Davies’ set, comprised of wardrobes, cabinets, tables, bric-a-brac and chairs hanging from the ceiling, is a thing of wonder, vital in ensuring the audience understands the world the brothers have come from.
John Dove’s low-key production of The Price ensures Miller’s comments on man’s desire for a safe career and pension scheme, as well as on the effects of a dire economy and high unemployment, are as relevant today as they ever were.
The Price runs at the Lyceum Theatre until 13 February.
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