Top ac­tor re­veals recipe for es­cap­ing mad­ness of role

“One of the great­est” “I played in The Bill”

Evening Express (City Final) - The Guide - - ARTS AND STAGE - By Lau­rna Robert­son

PLAY­ING a delu­sional sales­man who’s been bro­ken by the end­less slog of the job night af­ter night isn’t easy for any ac­tor’s state of mind. At 57, Ron Em­slie is earn­ing his stripes as a theatre vet­eran by tak­ing on the mam­moth role of Willy Lo­man in Arthur Miller’s clas­sic Death Of A Sales­man. And while it’s an hon­our to play one of Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture’s most clas­sic char­ac­ters, Ron has a set rou­tine af­ter the show to help sep­a­rate him­self from the mad­ness. “Al­though I am not a pes­simist, I do find play­ing Willy dif­fi­cult and drain­ing,” said the ac­tor who’s orig­i­nally from Ayr­shire, but who has lived in Lon­don since 1973. “I al­ways have a bot­tle of red wine in my dress­ing room and ev­ery night af­ter the show I pour my­self a glass and take a mo­ment to sit down and be­come my­self again.” And Ron will be stock­ing up his dress­ing room at the HMT next Tues­day, when the play comes to Aberdeen for the week. Death of A Sales­man fo­cuses on a 63-year-old sales­man who has flogged his goods all over New Eng­land his whole life and has metaphor­i­cally bro­ken his back while con­stantly hop­ing and dream­ing of eas­ier days. His wife Linda, played in this pro­duc­tion by Vari Sylvester, has tried to keep the fam­ily to­gether, while sons Biff, played by Ewan Don­ald, and Happy, played by Gary Tank Com­man­der star Robert Jack, have been a fur­ther source of dis­ap­point­ment for their fa­ther. While the clas­sic has been con­stantly an­a­lysed since the first per­for­mance on Broad­way in 1949, Ron and the rest of the cast were ad­vised to for­get any pre­con­cep­tions they had about the play by di­rec­tor Ian Grieve. Ron said: “We were told to ig­nore all the writ­ing and go back to the story as Miller puts it all in there for the cast and au­di­ence. “That’s the great thing about great writers – it’s all there al­ready.” While the Amer­i­can Dream topic isn’t as rel­e­vant to­day as it was when the play was writ­ten 60 years ago, there is still a strong rel­e­vance in to­day’s eco­nomic cli­mate. “Due to the re­ces­sion peo­ple to­day feel the same pres­sure of fi­nance as Willy and his fam­ily do. “For peo­ple who have heard a lot about the play but have never seen it, it is one of the great­est plays ever writ­ten. It has light mo­ments of com­edy and it’s a big pro­duc­tion that will fill the gods at HMT.” Ron is de­lighted to be com­ing back to Aberdeen so soon af­ter his visit with Whiskey Kisses last sum­mer. “I'm very ex­cited to be head­ing up north again,” he said. “There’s a gor­geous lit­tle restau­rant just off Union Street I'm look­ing for­ward to get­ting back to.” Ron moved from Ayr­shire to study drama in Lon­don when he was 19. And be­cause of his move at such an early age, and af­ter drama school hav­ing worked in the­atres all over Eng­land, Ron has lost his Scot­tish twang. “My ac­cent is all over the place – be­cause I did rep in New­cas­tle. When I'm there I pick up a Ge­ordie ac­cent and I pick up a Man­cu­nian ac­cent when I'm there too. “I doubt that I’ll be pick­ing up a Doric one though.” In his var­ied ca­reer, Ron has played Chief In­spec­tor Grant Mo­rys on The Bill, along­side Joanna Lum­ley on Dr Wil­loughby and along­side Billy Nighy in film The Fool. But, as theatre is where his heart lies, Ron can’t help notic­ing the em­pha­sis on the UK tour­ing cir­cuit of mu­si­cal theatre over straight plays. “There’s no doubt that mu­si­cal theatre makes more money be­cause it pulls in big­ger crowds and is eas­ier to sell. “How­ever if the writ­ing for straight drama can be as good as Miller’s, and it moves away from the tele­vi­sual writ­ing that we see a lot now, then there’s plenty more fan­tas­tic straight theatre to come.” Death Of A Sales­man is at HMT from March 1.

DE­MAND­ING: Ron Em­slie in a dra­matic mo­ment from Miller’s Death of a Sales­man.

ON THE ROAD: Ron Em­slie in Death of a Sales­man.

TROU­BLED: Linda Lo­man (Vari Sylvester) and hus­band Willy (Ron Em­slie).

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