The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
October 9, 10, 11 & 12, 2013.
Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Bob Ryder – Willy Loman
Pam Luxton – Linda
Guy Steddon – Biff
Phil Brown – Happy
Tony Brownings – Charley
Dan Dryer – Bernard
David Creedon – Uncle Ben
John Garland – Howard Wagner
Sophie Lane – Jenny / Letta
Judith Berrill – The Woman
Ian Grover – Stanley
Sarah Frost – Miss Forsythe
Katie Piper – Waitress
Assistant Director – Caroline Woodley
Stage Manager – Zoey Attree
Deputy Stage Manager – Terri Challis
Lighting Engineers – Martin Oakley
Lighting Engineers – Mike Philips
Sound Set-Up – Rhys Skilling
Sound Operation – Andy Viney
Costume – Maggi Pierce
Costume – Cherry Fraser
Costume – Caroline Woodley
Props – Caroline Woodley
Workshop & Set – Carl Gray
Workshop & Set – John Cole
Workshop & Set – David Comber
Workshop & Set – Nigel Goldfinch
Workshop & Set – Sue Chaplin
Workshop & Set – Judith Berrill
Workshop & Set – Margaret Davy
Workshop & Set – Sheila Neesham
Poster Design – Judith Berrill
Publicity – Anna Quick
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Maggi Pierce
Publicity – Judith Berrill
Headshots – Ray Hopper
Front of House Co-ordinator – Betty Dawes
Programme Note #1: Death of a Salesman
GT wrote: “I am grateful to Wick Theatre Company for giving me the opportunity to direct this wonderful play. It has of course achieved high status for its literary merit – I first met it as a school set text – but it started out as, and still is, a moving and intensely powerful piece of theatre. I loved seeing it at the National Theatre with Warren Mitchell as Willy Loman, and I was reminded some years later when my eldest son read it for his American Studies degree that it was something I would like to do.
Miller’s original production was groundbreaking. He conceived a permanent set which is a mix of realistic and representational (‘a dream rising from reality’); his hero lives half in the present and half in his rose-coloured past, with the supporting cast around him helping play out his imaginings in and around his house – which is sometimes ‘there’ and sometimes not – and elsewhere; and the scenes which tell the story roll seamlessly one into another, with guidance for the audience provided more than anything by lighting changes and the use of music almost in a filmic way.
I wanted to stay as close to all this as possible (recreating a little 1940s atmosphere along the way) because I felt that it would be the best way to home in on the core themes: Willy’s disintegration, and the steadily building tension from his encounters with family members, friends and business associates, especially those with his elder son Biff. In fitting all this onto the Barn stage, I have placed many demands on a small army of contributors to whom I owe copious thanks.
And thank you, too, for coming. I hope you have an enjoyable evening.
Review #1: Death of a Salesman
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: October 17 2013 issue – page 14
Reviewer: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: Wick Theatre’s production leaves lasting impression
HARROWING and depressing may not be words usually associated with excellent, but in the case of Wick Theatre Company’s latest production, all three are appropriate.
Death of a Salesman, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick from last Wednesday to Saturday, featured some outstanding performances.
I found it a hard play to watch, with Willy’s gradual disintegration leaving some in tears at the end of Saturday’s performance. But there was no denying the cast gave it their all and the fact we went away so affected by it surely proves the strength of their performance. Bob Ryder, a Wick Theatre stalwart, took the lead rôle of Willy Loman, a travelling salesman who has spent his whole life chasing his fortune without success. It is an enormous rôle, dominating the stage for most of the play, and a demanding one, as Willy loses his grip on reality.
The scenes with his son Biff, played by Guy Steddon, were particularly emotional. Willy is desperate to see his eldest boy make good but it is clear to everyone else, the truth is far from the dream. When Biff finally confronted Willy with the truth, that he was nothing more than a thief, the confrontation was the stand-out scene of the play. Steddon made it totally gripping and you could hear a pin drop as the audience sat hanging on his every word.
There were others worthy of note in supporting rôles, including David Creedon a Uncle Ben, Willy’s brother who appears to him in his imaginings, and Phil Brown, as Happy, Biff’s younger brother. He and Steddon did well to portray the sons in their youth, so it was clear to us Willy had slipped back into a memory of the past.
Director Graham Till chose to stay close to Arthur Miller’s original production, using a permanent set to represent both the reality and the ‘dream world’ of Willy. Good lighting was key to guiding the audience from the present to the past, and from the people who were really there and those who were only in Willy’s mind.
The play was the company’s Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Award entry.
Review #2: Death of a Salesman
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: October 11 2013
Reviewer: Louise Schweitzer
Willy Loman dies but lives on in Arthur Miller’s famous play Death Of A Salesman, a bleak tale of battered hope, accomplishes Miller’s dreams of immortality.
The playwright’s own struggle to survive the depression inspired this intense and powerful postwar drama: the dark side of the American dream.
Willy may be dead but he offers a humdinger of a part to Bob Ryder, who grabs it with both hands and whose wonderful acting makes us believe in and care about Willy’s failed career, hopeless fatherhood and doomed garden. Superb support comes from Pam Luxton as Linda, not coping with sons Biff and Happy, loudly and energetically portrayed by Guy Steddon and Phil Brown.
Director Graham Till recreates Miller’s fact and fantasy set, as well as the original rolling storyline, without scene changes or breaks.
The Wick Theatre Company actors without exception demonstrate their customary talent in a most thoughtful production of immense skill.
Yet nothing is so dated as our recent past; attitudes and social mores from 1950s America seem as old-fashioned as Bakelite landlines. But we must remember that we are separated by a common language, one to which Arthur Miller gave unique expression.
Review #3: Death of a Salesman
Publication: Remote Goat – online
Publication Data: October 13 2013
Reviewer: Sascha Cooper
Text Header: Promising classic text needs work
Death of a Salesman is one of Arthur Miller’s more thought provoking texts which has not only shocked audiences for its rather taboo content, but also inspired future theatre as a whole. Examining the mindset of a failing salesman as he tries to make sense of the world whilst his family attempts to survive in a world full of strife, not realising the drastic affects his mental health has on everyone around him. With memories of happier times, he tries to move forwards, but ends up being more stuck than before.
Wick Theatre Company took on the challenge of staging this difficult play with relish, but sadly the show fell very flat in places due to non convincing American accents, lack of vocal projection and diction and the acting being weaker than past productions due to letting the text overwhelm them rather than embracing it.
The first act was particularly weak with the story being hard to properly get into despite strong performances from certain cast members whom I will highlight in a moment. But when the second half came, everybody upped their game and actually relished the story properly. If this had been shown in the first half, then the play would have been more enjoyable as a whole.
Having said all this, as aforementioned, there were extremely strong performances within the cast. One of which being Pam Luxton who played the suffering wife of Willy Loman ‘Linda’. Her raw emotions as life progressed were so engaging and realistic that I wanted to jump on the stage and give her a big hug! Her accent was also convincing all the way through and her performance was extremely strong. Complimenting her was Guy Steddon (Biff) and Phil Brown (Happy) playing the two sons who are looking for their purpose in life. I particularly loved their banter as brothers as well as the subtle change in their personalities to show the difference as they grew older. But Guy Steddon really shone as Biff finally had his say of the truth to his father at the end! We felt pain, sorrow and yet a strong realisation of who he finally was as a man.
The other actor who really stood out though was David Creedon as ‘Uncle Ben’ the hard hitting go getter of the family who survived the jungle and came out rich. David’s dedication to the role in the flashback sequences was stunning to watch that I wanted to see more of him! This is an actor who we need to keep an eye on for the future – his passion for his craft shines on stage and I suspect off as well.
Plus the staging and set was so simple and effective that it brought the finishing touch to the show.
With further work on the text as well as the overall performance, this show could be quite a good one to watch out for if staged again.
Review #4: Death of a Salesman
Publication: Morning Star
Publication Data: October 17 2013
Reviewer: Attila the Stockbroker’s column included
“A very rare trip to the theatre last week to see my favourite play ever, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, brought to life last week by our local Wick Theatre Company.
A magnificent performance by all concerned and a big up to Bob Ryder for his portrayal of the messed up, rambling, self-deluding Willy Loman, sucked dry and spat out by the “American Dream” around which he had built his life.”