The Price review: David Suchet elevates classy play about simmering tensions
The price or the value: what is most important for us to learn? This is the meaty dilemma at the heart of Arthur Miller’s lesser-known 1968 drama, which shows the quietly devastating down-the-decades impact of the Great Depression upon one New York family.
One particular price is easy to agree upon: this is a worthy, weighty addition to the West End scene, anchored by two splendid performances, from the inimitable David Suchet and Brendan Coyle, best known as Mr Bates in Downton Abbey. Structurally speaking, this is not your typical West End work. A four-hander overall, the first half essentially breaks down into two two-handers, which are followed by the disconcerting disappearance of Suchet’s character for almost the entire second half. It’s a piece with tendencies towards the talky and static; it’s certainly not in the front rank of Miller’s work. Yet Jonathan Church’s rich and powerful production makes many strong counter-arguments in its favour.
Simon Higlett’s set offers a glorious cornucopia of clutter, which packs the long unlived-in Franz family attic apartment. Victor (Coyle) has invited 89-year-old Russian Jewish furniture dealer Gregory Solomon (Suchet) to cast his lively, appraising eye over the potential spoils. Ever since the death of their father some 16 years previously, policeman Victor and his doctor brother Walter (Adrian Lukis) have been estranged, due to long-festering bitterness over Victor’s putting his ambitions on hold to care for their ailing parent.
Suchet has a ball with Gregory’s quirks; at one point, he peels a hard-boiled egg, prays over it and then insouciantly asks Victor for salt. Coyle is a study of pent-up years of decency and resentment and the back-and-forth of the brothers’ body language speaks volumes about simmering tensions now boiling over. A classy evening.
Until April 27