The Price is right at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans

15:54 30 January 2014

The Price

The Price

Archant

With its first production in 2014, the Company of Ten has set the benchmark against which all its other plays this year are bound to be compared.

For the St Albans drama group is currently wowing audiences in the Abbey Theatre Studio with its production of Arthur Miller’s The Price.

And word has already got round about this one – all the final performances are sold out and rightly so.

So thanks to the South Herts branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association for allowing me to come and watch it on their charity night.

Miller’s multi-layered tale of how two brothers meet to clear out an attic full of furniture belonging to their late parents is a demanding four-hander for all the cast.

And director Rosemary Goodman does not stint on bringing out the drama in what, on the face of it, could appear to be a pedestrian play. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

The scenes between the two brothers, Russell Vincent’s Victor and Mark Waghorn’s Walter, in the second act are absolutely spellbinding – it is hard to see how they could be better performed professionally.

The audience, rightly, was riveted as the two went for each other hammer and tongs as they sought to justify their respective walks in life following years of estrangement.

Russell Vincent, probably the Company of Ten’s safest pair of hands, has the most demanding role – he is on stage throughout the play and unsurprisingly, looked drained at the end of it. His Victor is the perfect foil to Mark Waghorn’s suave Walter and the two actors could have been having a genuine argument in the Studio instead of acting one out so good were they. Let’s hope they appear on stage together again in the not too distant future.

It was good to see Jacqui Golding in the role of Victor’s despairing wife Esther, torn between Walter’s pursuit of money and Victor’s philanthropy.

But in a production where all the cast are excellent, the real stand-out performance is Martin Goodman as the Jewish furniture dealer Gregory Solomon. Prominent in the first act of the play, his scenes with Victor as they try to reach a deal on selling the furniture are totally absorbing thanks in no small measure to the brilliant way he has immersed himself in the nuances of the role.

The Price is played out against the busiest set I have ever seen at the Studio with furniture and knick knacks piled up, an old gramophone player and a harp. It was no surprise to learn that the Company of Ten had to practically clear out their props department but it works – the claustrophic feeling adds greatly to the atmosphere of the play.

Rosemary Goodman should have joined her acting team for the bow at the end – she has set the bar really high for the rest of the season.

MADELEINE BURTON

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