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Arts - Selling A Story - Jacki Weaver Interview

Author: Darryn King
Monday, 19 May 2008
3D’s Darryn King speaks to Jacki Weaver, star of the new ensemble theatre production of Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman.

So Death Of A Salesman has been described as the play that everybody has to see at some time in their life. Do you remember the first time you saw it-
Yes, I saw it back in the ’70s with Mel Gibson. It was at the Belvoir Theatre and he was brilliant – and so was Warren Mitchell who played Willy Loman. Mel had just started drama school and he was just fantastic. I reckon it’s one of the best plays of the 20th Century.

Why is that- It’s seen as a manifesto against the American dream…
It’s not just American – I think it speaks to a universal truth that’s the same around the world.

Yes, the ‘American dream’ is probably not that different to the dreams of any human being.
I think so. People have aspirations that might not come to fruition, people start off with a lot of hope and things dwindle… It’s a beautiful, beautiful play, really beautifully written. Very sad, but it’s got a lot to say about having the right attitude to life.

It’s a tragedy of almost operatic proportions, but on some level it’s a love story too, would you agree-
I would agree with that actually. Certainly my character is devoted to her husband in a most selfless and altruistic way. There’s a lot of love in the story, but also love gone awry, with the sons and the father. The father’s a loser actually – I don’t mean that in a bad way – he feels he’s a failure and he’s wanted so much and he’s tried so hard… And that could be anyone.

Is there any positive message in all this-
I think there is. I think it informs us about how we can make things better. A lot of the play is introspective – he looks back at things he said and done, how things could’ve been different, with the benefit of hindsight.

Arthur Miller’s original title for the play was Inside His Head… Is that a bit of a clue as to the way the play works-

Ah, yes. There’s very realistic scenes interspersed with flashbacks inside his head, where he relives things that have happened in the past. The boys are around 30 years old, and you see them suddenly become teenagers again, you see his wife when she was younger… but he stays the same.

Your character of Linda Loman has an unwavering loyalty to her husband – do you identify with that-
Yeah I can understand that, it’s a kind of conditional love that a lot of people have for their children and some people have for their partners. I think I’m pretty loyal. It’s one of the great female roles actually.

Can you tell me about the actor who plays Willy Loman-
Well, I’m actually married to him in real life…

Oh! I did not know that…
You didn’t know- Well, he’s a brilliant actor, Sean Taylor. He just spent five months playing George in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf-

Another play dismantling ‘the American dream’…
Yes, exactly. He just won two Best Actor awards for that. He and I were in a play in Queensland that only finished last Saturday night – that’s two plays in a row where we’re playing husband and wife.

Is that an extra thrill for you, to work so closely with Sean-
Well, in one way it is – he’s so brilliant, I just love watching him work, and we do have a pretty good rapport I think… Onstage and off… Being together 24/7 though…! But last year because of work we were apart for eight months, and now this year, we’re together 24/7 for six months, so… it’s swings and roundabouts.

WHAT: Death of a Salesman
WHERE: York Theatre, Seymour Centre
WHEN: Thursday 15 May – Saturday 31