American playwright and essayist Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play Death of a Salesman has attracted Hollywood and theatre stalwarts for its powerful script and timeless story, ever since it premiered in 1949 on Broadway. The gripping family drama about love and hate revolves around a salesman (Willy), his wife (Linda) and two sons (Biff and Happy) who have to come to terms with the trails and tribulations in their lives. The production has been revived four times and has seen Oscar-winning actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the role of the angst-ridden Willy.
India’s leading theatre stalwart Alyque Padamsee is now reviving the play under his daughter Raell Padamsee’s banner Ace Productions 25 years after he first staged it. Raell is producing it, while the ad guru will direct and play the lead role.So what prompted him to revisit the play after so many years? Padamsee laughs and explains, “After I performed Death of a Salesman 25 years ago, I took up direction and stopped acting except for playing Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. But Raëll urged me to get back on stage. I always listen to my daughters like a good, obedient father. Besides I have been missing the thrill of being on stage.”
Padamsee attributes the most powerful aspect of the production to Miller’s script. He also gives credit to his cast that “gives meaning to the script and does full justice to it.” Since The Death of Salesman is mostly told from Willy’s point of view and the previous parts of his life are revealed in flashback, the production demands special effects, which Padamsee has rendered himself. The projection and powerful lighting helps the scene to start off in the present time and later adds characters onto the stage whom only Willy can see and hear, representing individuals and conversations from other times and places.
Padamsee’s production also features an amalgamation of reputed names such as Sabira Merchant and Farid Currim and new faces like Nishith Dhanak, Cyndy Khojol and Nivvy Randhawa. Elaborating about the cast, he says, “We didn’t conduct any workshops but we did audition many actors for this play. The actors have also got several inputs from me, Raëll and Sabira which have helped them portray their characters effectively.”
Padamsee says he is rather excited to team up with Merchant after 25 years. “After having done this play with her so many years ago, it’s still the same thrill that I experience all over again. Sabira has been a great support for this production.” He says he is also excited to straddle so many roles for the play. “It was very challenging but I enjoyed the experience because that’s the very thrill of doing theatre. For me theatre is life and life is theatre,” he signs off.