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

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Sister Act by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

South Pacific at Royal & Derngate last year set a remarkable benchmark for an "amateur" production, with a large talented cast, superb vocals, sets and a polish up there with a professional production. Sister Act, this years production from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was more of the same, but perhaps taken up a notch or two. Sister Act is a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy and was first performed in 2009. Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, it is a likable and fun musical which genuinely came as a surprise to me. The opening scene at Curtis's Bar and Nightclub is to be honest not the best though and genuinely didn't fill me with much hope. It feels as if it gives nothing to the cast, although it creates the premise of the story coupled with the incident outside the bar. Likewise, I didn't take much to the Police Station scene either, so it didn't bode well. When we reach the Queen Of Angels Cathedral though, this show

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c