The Price by Arthur Miller - review

by Guy Somerset / 19 August, 2013
Every subtlety of the play is teased out in a production that doesn't put a foot wrong.
Arthur Miller’s The Price was contemporary at the time of its first performance - 1968 -  and is still, despite the period staging (John Hodgkins), as challenging in its depiction of a family and a society in denial of the truth as it was when it won rave notices for its already famous author. “Everything has to be disposable,” declares Gregory Solomon (a pitch-perfect Ray Henwood), the octogenarian dealer who drivers much of the action of the play. “Because you see the main thing today is shopping.”

What Miller saw clearly in 1968 is what we have become today: people who no longer see salvation in religion or politics, but look for it in shopping malls. Nor did his prescience end there. One of the themes running through the play is that of choice, and the invention of self. “We invent ourselves to wipe out what we know,” successful surgeon Walter (a fine Christopher Brougham) tells his brother, Victor (a standout performance from Gavin Rutherford). Walter has convinced himself - how modern this sounds! - Victor sacrificed his career in order to look after their broken father, not because he was kinder, more humane, but because he chose that path. There’s a price to be paid for living a “real life”, he insists. In Victor’s case, that price was the abandonment of his dream of becoming a scientist in order to support his father, earning a living as a humble policeman.

Miller is too clever a playwright to make his story simply a struggle between the good son and the bad. The ambiguity that clouds the arguments both men put up clings most powerfully to Gregory, the enigmatic, compulsively cheerful dealer, whose price for the detritus of a life lived in the wake of the Great Depression gives the play its name. But prices, as Walter reminds Victor, are paid in many different ways, even if the inevitable end game is money and power. Standing against this - a faint voice at the end of the play - is Victor’s hitherto combative wife, Esther (Jude Gibson). If only, she says, mocking the words even as she utters them, there could be forgiveness for everyone.

Susan Wilson’s direction never puts a foot wrong. Every subtlety is teased out of a play that can seem wordy at times but is so packed with observations about the human condition, then and now, that we leave the theatre wanting more.

THE PRICE, by Arthur Miller, directed by Susan Wilson, Circa One, Wellington, until September 7.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bulldogs
86110 2018-01-20 10:49:32Z Business

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bul…

by Sally Blundell

As a result of growing concern over the welfare of pugs, British and French bulldogs, Trade Me has announced they're banning the sale of these breeds.

Read more
Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding shame
86056 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Currently

Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding s…

by Sally Blundell

NZ has an unregulated puppy-breeding industry where unscrupulous operators can flourish, so why aren’t we following the lead of overseas governments?

Read more
The Crown has lost its way in season two
85715 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Television

The Crown has lost its way in season two

by Greg Dixon

To read the gushing media reports, you’d have thought The Crown was a winning combination of the Second Coming, unicorns and sliced bread.

Read more
How your name influences who you become
85737 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Psychology

How your name influences who you become

by Marc Wilson

Researchers say that 'Daisy' is more likely to dress and act in a feminine manner because the name has a stereotype of femininity.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and present lend their support
86105 2018-01-19 15:45:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and pres…

by RNZ

Politicians from at home and abroad are reaching out to offer congratulations to the Prime Minister mum-to-be.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND a mum
86091 2018-01-19 12:36:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND…

by Katie Parker

New Zealand’s newly minted PM and bizarrely cool and normal lady Jacinda Ardern has announced that she and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting a baby

Read more
Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy
86074 2018-01-19 11:11:36Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy

by RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she is pregnant, with the baby due in June.

Read more
What the media silly season taught us
85933 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

What the media silly season taught us

by Graham Adams

To the eternal gratitude of media chiefs, each holiday period seems to throw up at least one minor scandal that runs in the absence of anything newsy.

Read more