The Price

Written by Arthur Miller Directed by Giles Croft
Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Nottingham Playhouse Presentation
Liverpool Playhouse (6th - 28th February 2009)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

What is the price we pay for the way we behave in life? That is the profound question impressively examined by legendary American playwright Arthur Miller in this deeply resonant production, given more pathos in this time of increasing ecomomic recession and subsequent moral schisms in society and in families.

Poignancy is there by the plateful, given that it deals with a family trying to cope with the 1930s Great Depression in America.

You hear talk in the UK of the divorce rate going sky high because one or both of the bread winners in a family can not cope with unemployment and having to struggle financially. A lot of people have to wake up to the fact that the party is over and the credit boom has become the credit crunch.

The family portrayed in The Price, written in 1968, fits this bill. They are driven apart by money - or rather the lack of it in the case of Victor (Robin Kingsland) and his long suffering wife, Esther (Elaine Claxton).

The play opens on a subdued note when Victor enters the room - resembling a junk furniture store, with tables and chairs piled upon each other upto the ceiling - where his family used to live. Following the death of his father he has decided to sell it all.

The memories - generally bitter ones - come flooding back, and are exacerbated when Victor's brother Walter (David Beames) appears on the scene; the two of them had not spoken to one another for sixteen years.

The reason for this separation is then revealed in often soul-searching and sometimes brutal dialogue directed at each other. Who is to blame? Who is to blame for the way I am? They pour scorn in dollops.

Esther - generally a spectator while this goes on - then adds to Victor's increasing despair by regularly belittling him for not making enough money for them live on.

Despite the dark torment and melancholy prevalent throughout, humour appears in the shape of elderly Jewish furniture trader Solomon (Jon Rumney). He almost acts as a counsellor as the two warring factions battle it out, peppering his language with wry observations about life, money, women and booze.

When you are born you buy a ticket into life - that is the price you pay.

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