Thursday 16th to Saturday 18th November and Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25th November 2017
Directed by Alan Ward and Pete Woodward
A classic of American 20th Century theatre - a study of Willy's struggle to cope with a changing world and still hang on to his belief in "The American Dream".
This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Willy Loman||Mark Wakeman|
|The Woman||Sally Hartley|
|Uncle Ben||Terry Smyth|
|Howard Wagner||Ben Tanner|
|Miss Forsythe||Suzy Gains|
|Directors||Alan Ward and Pete Woodward|
|Stage Manager||Marion Ward|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Alan Jolly and Tasmin Halford|
|Lighting Design||Andrew Caple|
|Sound Design||Sarah Parnell|
|Lighting Operation||Robin Hall|
|Sound Operation||Paul Millington|
|Set Design||Pete Woodward|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
|Handbill Design||Pete Woodward|
|FOH Manager||Jacquie Penrose|
Hard to imagine, I know, but the idea of co-directing 'Death of a Salesman' was sparked off some fourteen months ago whilst heading north to Barnsley. (Why Barnsley, you may ask ...but that's another story.)
It was clear to both Alan and I that we both shared an enthusiasm for the plays of Arthur Miller in general and for 'Death of a Salesman' in particular. Indeed, Alan had performed the part of Happy in a 1983 production at The Forest Theatre, Crawley, West Sussex.
We decided to submit this play as co-directors and, thankfully, the Company voted it in, and so here we are.
I have enjoyed embarking on this project with Alan very much. In my view, his clear, uncomplicated and direct approach always gets the best out of a group of actors, as his past productions have demonstrated. It obviously contrasts greatly with my vague, woolly, somewhat unfocussed methods, but I am convinced that between us we can deliver the goods.
We are, of course, indebted to our team of helpers, Stage Manager Marion and Producer Sally, and especially to all our actors, whose application and commitment to this play has been amazing: we can't thank you enough.
Is it good to work on a show with two directors? So far, I would say yes, it's been great fun and we are still friends. Perhaps you should ask us the same question on November the 25th.
Looking back on my directing credits since joining the Bench; 'Look Back in Anger', 'Breaking the Code' and most recently 'Equus' it is clear I like to set myself a challenge so I decided to take a break from the epic classics and direct something a bit more lightweight.
So here I am co-directing another heavyweight of theatre 'Death of a Salesman'. Why? I hear you ask! The great thing about amateur theatre is that you get many more opportunities to work on productions you have a passion for, much more than you would get in the professional world. So to get the chance to work with a good friend on one of the 20th centuries greatest plays was a no brainer!
Having seen Pete's work on fantastic productions such as 'Dealers Choice' and 'God of Carnage', it was clear to me that we have very similar tastes of the type of production we love to bring to the Bench audiences. For many reasons 'Death of a Salesman' is a very difficult play to stage, therefore having someone else to bounce ideas off has been of immense help and I believe our different styles of directing have complemented each other very well. We have also had the odd opportunity to split the rehearsals and work more intimately on the text with our cast, which in my opinion is one of Pete's best directing skills, and with Pete's clever set design it made my life a lot easier.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank the backstage crew, lighting and sound designers and operators, in fact all of the unsung heroes who have contributed to bringing our vision to life. All in all it has been an interesting, challenging, but fun journey to get to where we are today. I sincerely hope you, the audience, enjoy the fruits of our labours.
Next for me though, is a light hearted comedy - he says whilst reaching for a copy of King Lear....
Jeff Bone and Zack Cuthbertson, who play brothers Biff and Happy, shoulder much of the action very well with Cuthbertson demonstrating a good understanding of silence speaking louder than words.
Ingrid Corrigan shines as Linda in the scene in which she confesses awareness of her husband's intentions to her sons, and is also agonisingly moving in the final scene.
Before the main course comes a swift amuse-bouche - Craig Parker takes an uninteresting and unimportant waiter and creates a camp comic turn that nicely lifts the act two tension before we take the final plunge. And what a plunge it is.
As Willy Loman, the eponymous salesman, Mark Wakeman masterfully juggles world-weariness, frustration and coruscating anger.
The final confrontation between Loman and son Biff - whose life he vicariously tries to live - is uncomfortably satisfying and beautifully realised, with Bone and Wakeman both pulling out all the stops in a volcanic battle of wills.
Opening night had a lot of the Bench's actors fluffing their cues, but the overall quality of the final product more than made up for that.