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Death of a Salesman – God I love this show

Wendell Pierce

Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell have treated us to a mesmerising evening that is overflowing with suspended furniture, sliding door frames, live music, Arinzé Kene in a vest and a inspired new version of Death of a Salesman, at the Young Vic. 

Inspired as in the Loman family are black, which casts their drudgery in pre-civil rights America in a whole different light. This Salesman stars Sharon D Clarke and Wendell Pierce as Linda and Willy Loman. 

Elliott and Cromwell co-direct with attention grabbing pace. And 70 years on, Arthur Miller’s play has chilling resonance. And it’s all here: the pathos, time bending and drama of intense despair. This revival illuminates the classic as the past haunts the present time and place majestically. 

Memory and reality are never overplayed.

Wendell Pierce

Wendell Pierce

It may demand a lot from audiences and take risks, but that’s what all great theatre should do. And if some don’t come off, it’s one of the few classic tragic plays that can usually fall back on its script or the astonishing performances of its cast.

Particular plaudits with Elliott & Harper’s impressive production, of course, go to Sharon D. Clarke who’s turned loyal wife Linda Loman into a thing of very slow-burning, bluesy pain. 

Wendell Pierce leads the collapse of the Loman family as the deluded Salesman: out of time. His Willy is lofty, pathetic and explosive. 

 Sharon D Clarke

Sharon D Clarke

The design by Anna Fleischle is a beautifully fragmented and disjointed shell of a home: The Young Vic shimmers in rich primary colours through short sharp bursts of light through a prism or wooden frames. Hats off to the glorious sound by Carolyn Downing and clever music by Temowo. 

Halfway through Act 1, though, I felt this was Marianne Elliott on both autopilot and at the peak of her powers: standing, at times, in the shadow of huge successes on both revivals of musical Company and Angels in America.

But Act 2 left me reeling and emotionally shattered. Make of that what you will. 

The final scene is 10/10. 

Personally, I thought the whole thing was so brilliantly executed that it should become a permanent fixture on The Cut. 

A perfect revival. 

Death of a Salesman runs at the Young Vic from May 9-June 29, youngvic.org

Sold out DEATH OF A SALESMAN run extended, £10 ‘Rush’ Tickets to be released

Wendell Pierce

Due to public demand, the Young Vic today announces that the currently sold-out production of Death of a Salesman will extend for an additional two weeks of performances until Saturday 13 July. These additional performances go on sale at 10.30am today, Wednesday 1 May, with tickets priced £10 – £40.

As part of its commitment to accessible tickets, the Young Vic also announces that every Thursday at midday a limited number of £10 ‘Rush’ Tickets will be released online for the following week’s performances. The scheme will begin from Thursday 2 May and will be limited to two tickets per customers, available online.

Following her recent award-winning successes on Company and Angels in AmericaMarianne Elliott co-directs Death of a Salesmanwith Miranda Cromwell, who worked as Associate Director on both shows. Together, they bring a unique vision to one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, seen through the eyes of an African-American family.

Wendell Pierce makes his UK stage debut as Willy Loman, with Sharon D. Clarke as Linda Loman, Arinzé Kene as Biff Loman and Martins Imhangbe as Happy Loman. The full cast also includes Ian Bonar as Bernard, Trevor Cooper as Charley, Joseph Mydellas Ben Loman, Nenda Neurer as Letta, Jennifer Saayeng as Miss Forsythe, Matthew Seadon-Young as Howard Wagner and Stanley, Maggie Service as The Woman and Jenny and Femi Temowo as Willy Loman’s Father and Musician.

Death of a Salesman is directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell, with design by Anna Fleischle, lighting design byAideen Malone, sound design by Carolyn Downing, composition and musical direction by Femi Temowo, fight direction and additional movement support by Yarit Dor and casting by Charlotte Sutton CDG.

 

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Director Abigail Graham on Death of A Salesman, Molly Sweeney, Love Actually, Mike Leigh and more

Abigail Graham is a freelance theatre director and artistic director of OpenWorks Theatre. Her work includes Black Sheep, DEBRIS and Molly Sweeney.

Abigail is currently right in the middle of rehearsals for Death of a Salesman at the Royal & Derngate. The production runs in Northampton from 8 to 29 April 2017, before touring to Cambridge, Bath, Malvern, Exeter, Canterbury, Portsmouth, Edinburgh and Truro. Graham’s production is the first independent tour from the Royal & Derngate. No pressure.

 

Abigail with Mike Leigh

Hi ya! Royal and Derngate is quite a good theatre isn’t it?
Yes. The team are wonderful, a really  creative, supportive atmosphere.

 

What was the last new play you saw and left thinking – ‘bloody hell!’?
Castorf’s version of The Brothers Karamasow at the Volksbuehne in Berlin. It was epic.

Why should we come along to see your Death of A Salesman?
Firstly, it’s an extraordinary play, and we’ve got a brilliant team of actors and creatives; all of whom are working to open this classic up to a new generation of theatre goers.
It’s also a mind bending, time bending play – like being sucked into a whirlpool; Miller takes us into Willy Loman’s head and that opens up exciting staging possibilities as you leave objective reality and enter a more subjective world.  The creative team and I have enjoyed meeting that challenge and we hope the audience will enjoy coming on that journey with us – being sucked into the whirlpool too if you like. The cast are incredible – at the end of week two I’m pleased to say they’re all being really brave. So all being well, audiences will be in for a really good night out.
Crucially, Miller wrote it to ‘put a timebomb under the bullshit of American capitalism’…and considering the current political climate, it feels like a good time to be having that conversation.

Molly Sweeney was a quite successful wasn’t it. Do you have fond memories of that time?
Yes – having Brian Friel as a pen pal was really humbling. I miss him.

Death of A Salesman

Your production is the first independent tour from the Royal & Derngate. Nervous?
Not really, I’m looking forward to the play meeting audiences from all over the country. With a play as political as this one, I reckon it will be really interesting to see how people from opposite ends of the UK respond to it.

What’s your No 1 piece of Directing advice?
Keep learning.

Death of a Salesman is a classic text full of broken and misplaced dreams. Is it a metaphor for life?
I hope not.

Are you looking forward to Love Actually for Comic Relief?
(Let’s hope the hot French guy is in it thought.) Will Emma Thompson be re-enacting my favourite bit? You know the bit I mean….

Does Tim Piggot Smith have any dressing room demands?
I.e cayenne pepper, and rose-scented candles, rooms must maintain a constant temperature of 68 to 75 degrees etc etc. Not as far as I’m aware….

Can you tell us a bit about OpenWorks Theatre company?
Sure – I set up OpenWorks in 2013 as I believe you can only change who goes to the theatre if you change who makes it. On a very basic level, we are working to create a holistic relationship between art, outreach and audience development. It started out with each member of the creative team having a paid mentee who was in rehearsals afternoon a week, they then act as ambassadors for the show amongst their peers; giving word of mouth only discount codes to members of their community who haven’t been to their local theatre independently before.
It’s now evolved; our current commission, a new play by Caroline Bird, was inspired by a Looked After Young Person who was a trainee on our last production. I can’t say too much, but we were chatting about zombies and it all came from there. Following an exploratory week with him and his peers, Caroline has gone away to write the play, and we hope to return to the group and workshop it with them and some actors, and then when we go into production to keep them as trainees who will act as ambassadors for the work.

Mike Leigh is your hero, isn’t he?
I love his work. I saw All or Nothing in the cinema when I was at university; I had never seen acting like it. I guess he’s one of my heroes because he just keeps doing his thing his way, making the work he wants to make the way he wants to make it. He came to see Molly Sweeney at The Print Room. We ended up chatting for about an hour after the show.

Is there anything you’d like to add, Abigail?
Nope. Have a lovely week.

Death of a Salesman will run at the Royal & Derngate from 8 to 29 April 2017.

 

Royal & Derngate announces Made in Northampton 2017 season

Made in Northampton 2017

Made in Northampton 2017

At the end of a remarkable year for the Northampton venue, Royal & Derngate’s Artistic Director James Dacre today announced details of Made in Northampton 2017.

The 2017 season will include eleven brand new productions, seven world premieres, three major revivals and a site-specific collaboration with Northampton Town Football Club. Royal & Derngate’s season is set to welcome some of the country’s finest writers, composers, actors and creatives to Northampton as well as taking work Made in Northampton to over 40 theatres nationwide, championing the brightest emerging artists and companies alongside the most celebrated.

Introducing the season, Dacre said: “Our Made in Northampton 2017 season again aims to present plays that question the most important issues of our time. 2016 has been a year of seismic social and political change and our new season reflects this. With this season we hope to understand the worker who feels abandoned by his country, the refugee evicted from their home, the generation that feels disenfranchised from politics and the households which have forgotten how to be families.  

It’s as ambitious a season as we’ve ever produced and is shaped by a belief that the art of storytelling is as important a way of making sense of our lives in the internet age, as it was for the ancient Greeks, one of whose iconic tales we are dramatising. We have programmed a mixture of new commissions, literary adaptations, classic plays and devised works, which explore our need to belong to a family, place or country and offer life-affirming tales of characters who possess heroism, hope and humanity. 

Over the past ten years more than 1.1 million people have seen a Made in Northampton production either here in these remarkable theatres or on tour nationally and internationally. Our success over the last decade is testament to the extraordinary team of people who work here and our partners and supporters, locally and nationally, with whom we will deliver this exciting season of work.” 

Beginning in Spring 2017, the season launches with two major revivals. The first, in April, will be a touring revival of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece Death of a Salesman. Widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, and as relevant now as when it was first written, the piece looks at the cost of not being able to let go of the American Dream. Produced to coincide with the start of a new political era for America, this new production will be directed by Abigail Graham and will star 2016 Tony and Olivier Award nominee Tim Pigott-Smith (King Charles III), who will play the iconic role of Willy. Death of a Salesman will then tour to Cambridge, Bath, Malvern, Exeter, Canterbury, Portsmouth, Edinburgh and Truro, until Saturday 1 July 2017#Salesman17

Directed by Abbey Wright and designed by Laura Hopkins, the second major revival of the 2017 season is John Steinbeck’s powerful exploration of migration and community, The Grapes Of Wrath, adapted by Frank Galati. A moving story of hope and survival, this timely production will examine human resilience in the face of catastrophe and will feature a large community chorus with live music from Matt Regan (Greater Belfast). #Grapes17

In a European premiere next June, Artistic Director James Dacre collaborates again with composer Orlando Gough (King John) on a bold new Obie and Lucille Lortell award-winning version of An Iliad that has been adapted by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare from a translation by Robert Fagles of Homer’s chronicle, transposed to our own age. A visionary piece of storytelling, An Iliad casts the Poet as a refugee evicted from his country, with his poem an account of humanity’s addiction to violence, retribution and chaos. Relating the tale through the prism of our own time, the production will pose the question, has anything really changed since the Trojan War? #Iliad17

Also next Summer, a world premiere brings to the season a new kind of collaboration, between the theatre, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art and Northampton Town Football Club. Devised by Seven Sisters GroupThe Twelfth Player will use interactive technology to portray the experience of Cobblers fans across seventy years of the club’s extraordinary history, of which 2015/16 was arguably their most precarious and euphoric season. The Cobblers fought off relegation and narrowly escaped financial disaster, but through the dedication of staff, players and their fans – the team’s twelfth player – they made a remarkable recovery, welcoming a takeover, bouncing back into League 1 and winning the Club’s first League title for 29 years. The collaboration will see audiences go on a tour around Sixfields Stadium which will blend site-specific performance and handheld video technology, moving the audience seamlessly between characters inspired by real fans and placing them at the heart of the sporting action. #12thplayer

In September, the venue welcomes back Simon Godwin (Regeneration) to direct the regional premiere of Sam Holcroft’s hilarious comedy Rules for Living which follows what happens when an extended family gathers in the kitchen for a traditional Christmas and each of them rigidly follows their own ‘rules for living’. This darkly funny play is produced by Royal & Derngate in collaboration English Touring Theatre and Rose Theatre Kingston, reuniting the producing team who recently won the 2016 UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production for The Herbal Bed. #RulesForLiving17

Another major touring revival sees Lucy Bailey direct Love from a Stranger by Agatha Christie and Frank Vosper in a vivid new interpretation of Britain’s greatest crime writer’s work. This bold reimagination of an edge-of-your-seat thriller follows Bailey’s acclaimed work on last year’s Gaslight at Royal & Derngate and will tour the UK in 2018.

Following collaborations in recent years with Kneehigh, Peeoplykus, Spymonkey, Told by an Idiot and Frantic Assembly, in 2017 Royal & Derngate will champion the work of two emerging devising companies – The Wardrobe Ensemble and simple8 – with both ensembles making their mainstage debuts.

In October The Wardrobe Ensemble will premiere Education, Education, Education, charting the rise of New Labour through the lens of a secondary school staff room in 1997 and exploring the key policies and personalities that have shaped our recent political history. The company won critical acclaim and The Stage Award for their 2015 production of 1972: The Future Of Sex. They will be directed by Royal & Derngate’s RTYDS director Jesse Jones#Education17

simple8 is an award-winning ensemble company acclaimed for their ability to create richly imagined worlds out of nothing but a bare stage. They will premiere their vibrant new adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India as the 70h anniversary of Indian Independence is remembered. Reimagining the novel for contemporary Britain, the production poses a question that is even more urgent today than when it was first asked: how can we love one another in a world divided by culture and belief?

Furthering their commitment to making work for young audiences in their Underground Studio, Royal & Derngate collaborates with Little Angel Theatre on the world premiere of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ The Singing Mermaid, adapted by director Samantha Lane and composer Barb Jungr for under 7s and their families.

In addition, Royal & Derngate’s Young Company will also produce the world premiere of The Blue Road by Laura Lomas, continuing the venue’s commitment to inviting groundbreaking playwrights to work with young people.

Finally, Royal & Derngate will also shortly announce their world premiere production in the Royal for Christmas 2017.

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive said: “We are pleased to be announcing another ambitious season of Made in Northampton productions, all of which are inspired by and aim to speak to Northampton. This season provides further opportunity for us to consider the purpose of this theatre in one of the UK’s fastest growing towns. Last month we revealed a five year vision that included our plans to take a radical approach to creative and cultural education by establishing a free school in Northampton; to support the development of contemporary music theatre and opera over the coming years; and to collaborate with a neighbouring town to develop a new boutique cinema, inspired by our hugely successful Errol Flynn Filmhouse. These announcements, coupled with our exciting artistic plans for 2017, further demonstrate the scale of ambition and commitment of all our team to ensuring that the theatres and our town continue to thrive”.

For more information about any of the Made in Northampton productions, visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk. Shows can be booked online or by calling Box Office on 01604 624811.