Review: Death of a Salesman – Dundee Rep

Death of a Salesman wasn’t a play that I was really familiar with up until Saturday night. After skipping my highers at secondary school to go straight to college (and then on to university) – I never did study Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer winning play. It’s something that’s I’ve always been eager to rectify, so when I heard it was coming to Dundee Rep, I just knew I had to see it.

Told using a combination of flashbacks, dreams and present tense action, Death of a Salesman is a heart-breaking tale of how the death of a dream can affect a man and his family. Starring the wonderful Billy Mack, the play is about a 63-year-old travelling salesman named Willy Loman who is struggling to make ends meet. Haunted by his dreams of making it big, he finds himself at the end of his career, broke and feeling redundant. But no matter how low he feels, Willy always holds on to the hope that he can turn things around. Too proud to consider any other kind of career, Willy believes that charm and hard work are all that you need in life to succeed.

With beautiful performances from Billy Mack, Irene MacDougall as Willy’s long suffering but loving wife Linda and Laurie Scott as his youngest son Happy, the production is just stunning to watch. But for me it was Ewan Donald’s tremendous performance as Biff, Willy’s eldest son, that made this show truly spellbinding. The scenes between Willy and Biff are just electrifying to watch, with the actors capturing the intensity of this complicated father and son relationship, just perfectly.

Death of a Salesman is directed by Joe Douglas and is showing at the Dundee Rep until Saturday the 11th of March. For further information and to book tickets, visit: www.dundeerep.co.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of Death of a Salesman in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Review: Amadeus, National Theatre Live at DCA, Dundee

Having loved my first National Theatre Live experience, I was really looking forward to returning to Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) to watch the latest NT production Amadeus, last week. The stunning show, starring Lucian Msamati and Adam Gillen, tells the story of Salieri, a celebrated composer who is thriving in the beautiful city of Vienna. But when musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart comes to town, Salieri’s whole world is rocked to the core.

Envious of the attention that the young Mozart is receiving, Salieri gets to know the composer and is stunned by his extraordinary talent. Consumed by jealousy, Salieri starts to plot Mozart’s downfall, ensuring that he will never receive the recognition that he deserves during his short lifetime.

The cast, which included the wonderful Karla Crome as Mozart’s wife Constance, was absolutely magnificent and brought the whole piece to life. Written by the English playwright Peter Shaffer, Amadeus is filled with drama, suspense and outstanding music, provided by a live orchestra who were very much part of the production. The packed audience at the DCA, were all absolutely riveted and on the edge of their seats throughout.

For a second time, the magic of the National Theatre was absolutely transmitted through the screen, making it feel like you really were there! Being able to grab a drink from the lovely Jute Café Bar at half time, also really added to the whole theatre experience.

With more National Theatre Live events due to be screened soon, including the award winning plays Saint Joan and Hedda Gabler, I’m looking forward to returning to the DCA for my next dose of culture!

For more information about National Theatre Live productions coming to Dundee and to book tickets, please visit: www.dca.org.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of Amadeus in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Review – No Man’s Land, National Theatre Live at DCA, Dundee

I have been desperate to see a National Theatre Live performance for years now, but it’s something I’ve never quite gotten round to it. The initiative, that broadcasts National Theatre productions live to cinema venues around the world, has been spreading theatre joy since 2009 and ensuring that those of who don’t live near a National Theatre, don’t have to miss out on their spectacular productions.

When I finally got a ticket to see Harold Pinter’s classic play No Man’s Land, which was being broadcast live from the Wyndham’s Theatre in London, I was so excited to see how it was all going to work. As I made my way into Dundee Contemporary Art’s (DCA) cinema I was struck by how much it felt like I was entering an actual theatre. With beautiful views of Wyndham’s Theatre on the screen and the sounds of the audience’s chatter filling the room – the DCA contained that amazing pre-performance buzz, which I’ve never experienced in a cinema before.   

When the performance began – with the theatre’s curtain going up, the DCA audience were exceptionally quiet, taking great care not to chat or rustle their popcorn – it was as if we too were worried about distracting the actors.

The play was every bit as spectacular as I dreamt it would be. Pinter’s No Man Land is as poetic as it is dark and deliciously funny. Starring Sir Ian McKellen as Spooner and Patrick Stewart as Hirst, the story begins when the two ageing writers return to Hirst’s stately home after meeting for the first time in a pub on Hampstead Heath. As the pair become increasingly drunk, their friendly but boastful banter changes into something more serious and when they are joined by two younger men, the evening takes a sinister turn.

The small cast, which also included Owen Teale and Damien Molony, were superb and had both the theatre and cinema audience laughing along and gasping in equal turns. When the performance came to an end, I couldn’t stop myself from clapping along – it just felt rude not to!

After the event we were treated to a live question and answer from the four strong cast along with the Director of the play, Sean Mathias, which gave both audiences fresh insight into Harold Pinter’s original play, 41 years on.

I left feeling richer for having seen my first National Theatre production and very much looking forward to seeing the next one live at the DCA.

National Theatre Live are broadcasting a number of theatre productions in 2017, including Saint Joan, Amadeus, Hedda Gabler and the Twelfth Night all of which will be shown at the DCA. For more information and to book tickets, visit: www.dca.org.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of No Man’s Land in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Ten years on from the 27 club

27-e1445084328140I was 14 when the 27 club welcomed one of its most famous members. The story of Kurt Cobain and his spiral into despair held my attention much more than any Shakespearean play I was being taught as school. Grunge rock might never have been my thing, but Nirvana’s posters adorned the walls of all the boys I fancied, so it felt only right that I should take an interest. I went from being interested to compelled when I heard his suicide note being read out on the radio. As a teenager who had literary aspirations, the words: “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” had me hook, line and sinker. The tragedy, the mystery, the angst, it all just seemed so glamorous.

Of course it wasn’t just me that it took an interest, the whole world and his dog suddenly knew Kurt Cobain’s life story. Because that is what death does, it propels you into stardom, recreates your story into some new romanticized version. With the taint of death, every minor, minute details suddenly becomes important. Suddenly a sad face means depression, a hollow laugh becomes manic. People begin to project their own fears and failings on to someone else, who is not there to argue. As an impressionable teenager, I did just this. I identified with that lost look in Kurt’s eyes. He was misunderstood, just like me.

Twenty one years on and the world is still just as captivated with Kurt Cobain and his fellow 27 club members. Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jeff Buckley and Amy Winehouse, continue to hold the public’s interest years after their death, and their lives continue to be the subject of speculation fuelled by news articles, documentaries and social media. And as much as the stories of their lives still intrigue me, I just can’t help but wonder if our morbid curiosity is really healthy. Shouldn’t we be looking to the living for our answers, not the dead?

Of course it’s not just the music world that has a tendency to lose its members to tragedy. From writers like Sylvia Plath to artists like Vincent Van Gogh, the world of art seems to be full of heart breaking stories of untimely ends. Perhaps it’s because we feel things too deeply to create the things that we do. Whatever the reason, over the years I’ve begun to realise that as much as we’d like to really understand the plight of others, we can only ever really know our own.

As I approach my own 37th year, a whole ten years past the strict membership requirements of Kurt’s exclusive club, I can’t help but realise what a gift life is. The ordinariness of the day to day grind, might not be glamorous, but the hope that each day brings will always be worth more than never knowing how your life was supposed to turn out. So as much as I still identify with that lost look in Kurt’s eye or that husk of hurt in Amy’s throat, I’ll happily choose fading away.

Image: “27” by Shota Mitsuyasu