Newport Playgoers next production has been described as “The thinking man’s piece of theatre,” by its Director, Steve Bissex-Williams on the latest Ents South Wales Audio Supplement podcast.
Death of a Salesman won both the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. 70 years on, the play is now set to grab the attention of a contemporary audience, when it takes to the stage of the Dolman Theatre from April 9.
“It’s a feelgood play,” Steve Bissex-Williams, tells Andy Howells, “There are moments when the audience are laughing and having a good time, then a few pages later they’re nearly in tears.”
Death of a Salesman became one of the most famous American plays of its period. It is the tragedy of Willy Loman, a man destroyed by false values that are in large part the values of his society. For its writer Arthur Miller, it was important to place “the common man” at the centre of a tragedy
The play follows travelling salesman, Willy Loman, a man at the end of his life, living a final 48 hours in a fog of dreams and tortured reality.
“All his family think he’s successful,” says Steve, “but deep down he’s failing miserably, he can’t come home and tell his wife he’s no longer on a salary and only receiving commission. “
While Death of a Salesman echoes The American Dream ideology of the 1940s and 50s, the play has remained contemporary and is currently part of the A-Level syllabus. A Q&A will be provided for students after performances of Death of a Salesman and no doubt an interesting subject will be the relevance of the work today.
Steve continues, “When we start looking at the problem’s they had in the 1940s and then the problems we’ve got today, its parallel how people are surviving on zero hours.”
Newport Playgoers production of Death of A Salesman will follow closely to Arthur Miller’s original script and promises to be a treat for anyone who admires the playwright’s work.
Long standing Newport Playgoers member Eileen Symonds will play the role of Willy’s wife Linda and hopes audiences will be inspired to take time out to see the classic piece.
Eileen tells Andy Howells, “I’m hoping people will think, “Right! Let’s see some Arthur Miller!”
“We want as many people to come as possible and people that love literature. When you think he wrote this in his early 30s, in about a week, it’s a true American classic!”
Another long-standing member of Newport Playgoers, Steve Saunders takes on the lead role of Willy. a role which follows on from many other stage triumphs. for a variety of societies including Daddy Warbucks in Annie and The King in The King and I.
“I’ve been so fortunate, I’ve had so many wonderful parts,” Steve tells Andy, “I think Willy has to top almost everything I’ve ever done, because I have so much in this that is written by Arthur and I know so many professional actors have seen Willy Loman as the peak of their career!”
You can listen to Andy Howells interviews with Steve Bissex Williams, Steve Saunders and Eileen Symonds on the latest Ents South Wales Audio Supplement above.
Newport Playgoers Society presentation of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller runs at The Dolman Theatre, Newport from April 9-12 at 7.15pm each evening with a matinee performance on April 13 at 2.30pm. Visit dolmantheatre.co.uk for ticket details.