Theatrical: ‘Death of a Salesman’


Was I interested in going to see a staged reading of a play? Well sure. A staged reading of a play is exactly that – the actors stand on stage and read the text out loud, to an audience. It is different from a table reading in that it is not merely the actors reading the play among themselves. There is an audience. It is a very preliminary stage of any production. So early that even if it not an original piece you generally don’t need to pay the writer to stage it. It can be a rewarding means of sourcing cheap entertainment. You are not getting a full on production. It is only semi-rehearsed, so it is not expected to be as impressive as a fully rehearsed and learned performance.

What was this though? A €10 charge to see the staged reading. I was apoplectic with righteous outrage – well at least slightly concerned. Generally I am wary of staged readings. I will pay to see a final dress rehearsal of an opera (in Amsterdam the final dress rehearsal of operas are ticketed events where you can see the almost finished show for a deep discount – which is a godsend for poor students and other dodgy people). I will also attend a fundraising event held to raise money for a production – be that a table quiz, a karaoke night or a raffle. I will not however contribute money on a ‘GoFundMe’ page – buying a ticket to see a play is how I contribute to a show’s cost – anything more requires there to be an opportunity to win a cheap and tawdry gift. A mention in the programme simply won’t cut it.

The staged reading last night was of ‘Death of a Salesman’ – the great American play by Arthur Miller . It was being staged by Glass Mask theatre company as a fundraiser for its 2019 season. This is the resident theatre company for Smock Alley Theatre, which was the venue for last night. I was told that there would be a glass of wine included as part of the price. That changed matters. It meant that I was paying the entrance for the glass of wine. The staged reading was an extra.

Written in 1949, the play is brilliant – the tale of a delusional, mediocre, aging salesman Willy Loman, as he navigates his failed career and disastrous relationship with his disappointing sons Biff and Happy, while propped up by his forgiving wife Linda. Despite being almost seventy years old the play is very resonant today in a world where people judged solely on material success, and employees are expected to be achievers, yet remain utterly expendable.

The readings by the actors were mostly impressive, and despite the unblocked staging the script painted a clear picture of the dynamics of the play.

Never having seen an Arthur Miller play (the closest I have come is watching ‘The Misfits’ film for which he wrote the screenplay – this starred his then wife Marilyn Monroe; Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift, and was the last completed film of all three stars) my wish is to see a proper production of one of his works.

Isn’t it time ‘The Crucible’ was revived?

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