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By Arthur Miller
Theatre Royal Bath
Runs until 25 August, 2018
Photos: Nobby Clark
Reviewed by Michael Burland
Theatre Royal Bath has established a reputation for putting on a superior mix of established and new productions. For its 2018 summer season, what has artistic director of Jonathan Church selected as the flagship production? Surprisingly, perhaps, it's Arthur Miller's The Price.
Far less well known than The Crucible, Death of a Salesman or A View From the Bridge, it is at first sight a family drama focusing on two brothers, Victor and Walter Franz, whose coming together after a 16 year estrangement is forced by the need to dispose of their late father's vast collection of old furniture as his brownstone reaches demolition date.
The catalyst for the brothers' confrontation is an 89 year old antique dealer, Gregory Solomon (David Suchet) whom Vic has called in to buy the furniture. He's obviously there to rip the worthy but plodding New York City cop Vic before his smarter, successful surgeon sibling arrives ...isn't he?
Simon Higlett's spectacular set pitches heavy furniture in a great claustrophobic wave, looming over the cast. An almost literal elephant in the room, the price of this pile of dark wood is the starting point for a dissection of values – what is worthwhile? What worthless?
Vic's aspirational, day-drinking wife Esther is bemused by his refusal to take his NYPD retirement package or Walter's offer of money, and his unwillingness to haggle with Solomon. As the arguments flow, Miller explores the price that each brother has paid for decisions made in the past. Vic for being socially responsible in becoming a public servant and looking after their ailing father after his financial and personal collapse in the Depression, giving up a potentially successful career as a scientist. Walter for pursuing financial success at all costs, losing family, morality and human affection along the way. First seen at the height of the Vietnam War, The Price is as much about truth and responsibility as personal cost, relevant once again in our days of Fake News.
Brendan Coyle is convincing as a beaten-down but not bitter Vic, who could have achieved more, but at what cost. Sara Stewart is his exasperated Fifth-Avenue-on-a-budget wife who wants Vic to burst into a new life of ambition and imagination. Adrian Lukis is a solid Walter whom the other plays off.
But the star turn in this ensemble is David Suchet. Solomon has been played as a money-grabbing chancer, but Suchet makes him so much more – a survivor, a philosopher, a soothsayer, a puckish rapscallion, a comedian with a twinkle in his eye who can turn eating a hardboiled egg into an event. If The Price transfers to the West End, as it must, expect an Olivier Award to head his way.