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)

Popular posts from this blog

Killed - July 17th 1916 by Looking Glass Theatre at St Peters Church, Northampton

I first saw Killed by the Looking Glass Theatre in its first incarnation by the company in July 2014. Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing it in its third version at their new home of St Peters Church. Also new were the cast and unlike that first version, I was familiar with each one of them as all five were the University Of Northampton BA Acting graduates of 2015. Both a masterstroke of casting and a huge extension of kindness of the theatre to give them all these roles.

It was also visionary of them as unlike that first version (with all due respect), these actors were at the very point of their lives to play these roles like no other. All maybe within a year perhaps of the actual characters featured and with the world ahead of them. However sadly these characters portrayed lived in a more terrifying world (although many troubles still remain) and some had no lives ahead of them.

Leading the cast as Billy Dean is Dale Endacott, a recruit who finds himself through a terrible co…

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year.

Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device.

Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston) and…

Review of The Crucible at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

A few weeks ago I headed down to London to see this years graduating University of Northampton BA Actors perform Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, and while it was generally spotlessly performed, as expected, the staging of it was tremendously dull, offering little stimulation beyond just the words being said. It made a classic, quite dull as a result. There was no such issue with The Actors Company production, staged in the atmospheric Underground space, and directed with such style and flair by Fay Lomas, to make Miller's play unrecognisable from that London version.

Based around the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, Reverend Parris (a tough uncompromising performance from Steve While) comes across a group of girls dancing in the forest. When one of the girls, Betty (Laura Green), falls into a coma, events spiral out of control for many of the residents of the town, as accusations fly. Soon, Judge Danforth (Sue Whyte) is on the scene, and the lives of the residents a…