Skip to main content

Review of Death Of A Salesman at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This production cannot help but arrive at Northampton on its tour with a tinge of sadness following the loss of original lead actor Tim Pigott-Smith, however, this production continues strongly on in his honour with Nicholas Woodeson taking on the iconic role of Willy Loman.

Nicholas Woodeson (Willy Loman)
He arrives, dishevelled from the auditorium stalls, suitcases in hand, at the opening of Arthur Miller's classic play. a world-weary salesman perhaps at the end of his life? His youngest son Biff (George Taylor) has returned home, possibly feeling both a complete failure and maybe approaching at 34 an early mid-life crisis. At the centre of this is the stability of Willy's wife, Linda (Tricia Kelly) and the roguish womanising older brother of Biff, Happy (Ben Deery), very much happy to declare for appearances that he is "getting married" at many an opportunity.

Woodeson presents Willy in a nervy twitchy style, often just gently simmering with annoyance and despair making the outbursts of rage so much more effective when they come. It is an impressive stage performance placing layer upon layer the increasing realisation and despair that leads him on from dismissal to grasping at the notes that his long term friend and neighbour Charley (Geff Francis) throws at his feet, however, attempting to keep some dignity by refusals of job offers.
Ben Deery (Happy) and George Taylor (Biff)

Tricia Kelly holds the fort at home with her lively and occasionally desperate bouts of enthusiasm, Kelly though cleverly allows her world-weary persona of the character the chance to show that everything is far from well. George Taylor's Biff likewise attempts to make enthusiasm overwhelm the brokenness that he is clearly feeling and via the flashbacks, it becomes very much clear that the flunking of maths is far from the true reason for his own troubles.

Director Abigail Graham handles the constant flashbacks Willy is both haunted by and also joyfully experiencing extremely well. With the help of Georgia Lowe's modern style set portraying a foreboding neon sign of "Land of the Free", we weave back and forth with clarity and as Willy's world collapses, so does the sign deteriorate. The walls of the set slide back and the ghosts like those of the young Biff, Happy and Bernard (Michael Walters) playfully run in and out of the scenes. Willy's brother Ben (a superbly strong Mitchell Mullen) weaves and slides into scenes offering almost Native American style advice.
Connie Walker (Miss Francis), Nicholas Woodeson (Willy), Ben Deery (Happy) and George Taylor (Biff)

There is only one real set change and while these are often an annoying distraction in many plays, the brilliance of the movement piece created by Jennifer Jackson is so sublime as the entire set is stripped away as to make you want there to have been more. Lighting from Matt Haskins is subtle with just moments of alterations barely distinguishable as the world centres around certain key moments.

So with the exception of just a couple of moments of clumsiness over some lines and one prop, this is an excellent recreation of the classic play. There is no doubt that both the cast and crew of this production have honoured Mr Pigott-Smith and created something that they should all be very proud of and that you should do your very best to see as it continues its tour.
★★★★


Performance reviewed: Wednesday 14th June 2017 (matinee) at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.
Death of a Salesman runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 17th June 2017 before continuing its tour. Details of this here: https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/made-northampton-tour/#death


For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

PHOTOS: Manuel Harlan
Nicholas Woodeson (Willy), Geff Francis (Charley), Mitchell Mullen (Ben Loman)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Madame Bovary by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Rosanna Lowe's version of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary was originally commissioned by Simon Godwin for the Northampton Royal Theatre, so it perhaps seems apt, that it returns to a stage of the same town, in this new wacky interpretation from Masque Theatre.

Masque's publicity for the show, describes it as a "madcap tragedy", and for those more familiar with Flaubert's novel you shall perhaps be a little surprised by the anarchic version created here. This is tragedy played for full-on slapstick effect, and while at times it might seem overwhelming in its intensity, the ride we are taken on is a delight.

Directed by Tamsyn Payne and Alex Rex and a team of talented creatives, Madame Bovary's props and design are every bit as important as the talented cast wielding them. For an amateur production, the attention to detail is nothing short of staggering. Gloriously created books filled with delights, puppet dogs and children, mini nuns, and little baskets…

Review of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

I am personally all about making Shakespeare accessible, I take the Emma Rice line, that many were not keen on, that after a few hundred years, it's perhaps worthy of mixing it up a bit to make it more meaningful to a modern audience. I have a feeling the man himself would have no qualms about seeing his classic Hamlet transposed into a garish multi-coloured world, set in a much more hip place.
The Denmark that we see here and that is still referenced, is now very much an African country, and not just because of the heavy black actor casting, this is all about a style and a carnival feeling to many of the scenes. Music is provided by tribal-like drums, and characters stalk the scenes carrying handguns and rifles, bringing a modern feeling to the conflict as well. This is certainly not the "rotten state of Denmark" that most Shakespeare aficionados are familiar with.
Characters are changed drastically as we have more cocksure, swaggering, modern feeling to the individual…

Review of The Rover at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton

I have seen very little restoration comedy, and with Playhouse Creatures early this year, very much Restoration period, Masque Theatre has provided much of it this year, with this edition of Aphra Behn's 1677 play The Rover or The Banish'd Cavaliers. Behn was quite a landmark writer, recognised as one of the first women to make a living from writing (and has an extraordinary real-life worth researching). Perhaps having watched The Rover now, you can see why her work might well have been accepted back then. It is suitably bawdy, really extremely rude at times in places, definitely farcical (with disguise situations aplenty that wouldn't fool a blind man with a blindfold on) and perhaps most importantly, makes the woman much of the time the victims in the frequent sexual exploits. It clearly wasn't being anything that a man of the time wouldn't write, and probably means it lay a suitable path for success for Behn as a result.

The Rover itself is tremendous fun, ploug…