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 performances.
Bob Ryder, a Wick Theatre stalwart, took the lead role of Willy Loman, a travelling salesman who has spent his whole life chasing his fortune without success.
It is an enormous role, 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 couldn’t hear a pin drop as the audience sat hanging on his every word.
There were others worthy of note in supporting roles, including David Creedon as Uncle Ben, Willy’s brother who appears in 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.