Top actor reveals recipe for escaping madness of role
“One of the greatest” “I played in The Bill”
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).