'LAND OF THE FREE' goes the neon-lit legend emblazoned high across the back of the stage in Abigail Graham's production of Arthur Miller's damning critique of mid twentieth century capitalism. Like a contemporary pop art installation, the lights fizz in and out of life over the course of the play, mirroring how the spark has similarly faded in Willy Loman, the worn out patriarch in crisis who gives Miller's play its title.
What stands out first in Graham's Royal and Derngate Northampton production is how modern everything looks. This isn't just to do with the steel grey walls of Georgia Lowe's minimalist set, which features just a bed and plastic table and chairs. It is about how people dress. Tricia Kelly's Linda Loman wears jeans, with Willy's errant sons sporting tracksuit bottoms and trainers. George Taylor's under-achieving Biff lounges about in a checked shirt like a Generation X style slacker. Willy's profit obsessed boss Howard, played by Thom Tuck, hustles his way through the day in a 1980s wise-guy suit.
As Nicholas Woodeson's increasingly bemused Willy shuffles through all this, it is as if a collision of brighter, brasher worlds that he can't keep up with are rushing in on him. His cheap suit is probably older than the monster-size fridge that looms large in the corner, the ultimate past-its-sell-by-date symbol of broken down aspiration and built-in obsolescence.
Stepping into the breach as Willy following the untimely passing of Tim Pigott-Smith, Woodeson gives a mighty performance of a man out of time. It is a devastating portrait too of a world where apparent freedoms look cheaper by the day.
The Herald, June 22nd 2017