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Death of a Salesman

Getting at the heart of Arthur Miller’s outcry against inhumanity
Sydney Theatre Company
by
ABR Arts 09 December 2021

Death of a Salesman

Getting at the heart of Arthur Miller’s outcry against inhumanity
Sydney Theatre Company
by
ABR Arts 09 December 2021
Callan Colley, Helen Thomson, Josh McConville, and Brigid Zengeni in Sydney Theatre Company’s Death of a Salesman (photograph by Prudence Upton)
Callan Colley, Helen Thomson, Josh McConville, and Brigid Zengeni in Sydney Theatre Company’s Death of a Salesman (photograph by Prudence Upton)

In his program notes, Kip Williams, artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company, talks about the need to ‘wrestle’ Arthur Miller’s great play ‘into the present’. But if ever there was a play that speaks, as the Quakers would say, directly to us in our condition, it is this one. When Miller wrote it, he assumed that the postwar boom would not last and that America would head back into another depression. In fact, the boom continued, and for the next thirty years the United States, albeit hesitantly, moved past the horrors of McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the brutal resistance of the south to the Civil Rights Act towards a more just and equitable society. But the election of Ronald Reagan and the last forty years of triumphant, unrestrained capitalism have led us to the Trumpian world where people are either winners or losers and are, in the gig economy, to paraphrase Willy Loman, eaten like an orange and thrown away like the peel. Miller’s play is a reminder that being human, in his words, ‘is something most of us fail at most of the time and a little mercy is eminently in order given the societies we live in’.

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