Layla Chowdhury is amused by Uday Duggal’s student written comedy.
Having seen the preview for Death as a Salesman during the DDF Scratch Night, I was very excited to see the full production. The story follows a depressed sales worker Tony (Calum Maclean) attempting to sell death for the masses, under the influence of Stan (Kyle Kirkpatrick), Death’s corporate replacement. Writer Uday Duggal and director Hannah Sanderson have done a very good job balancing the macabre humour with more poignant emotional moments, creating a compelling story.
Sanderson should be commended for choosing sparse yet effective staging that seemed to highlight the writing and characterisations to bring out the humour. Similarly, the cast did a good job, their depictions of occasionally clichéd characters were distinct and consistent which created a varied and enjoyable show. Maclean did a particularly good job as the protagonist, maintaining energy with his frenetic and anxious personality. However, the stand out performances came from Alex Berridge-Dunn as Nick and Auguste Voulton as Grim. Dunn successfully adopted a funny charismatic caricature of a self-obsessed boss, creating a welcomed change of tone and pace from the more serious themes of the piece. Voulton’s character of a highly entertaining French Grim Reaper had a similar effect. Voulton managed to create a lot of comedy in his small part leaving many of the audience in stiches. His whimsical characterisation added a huge amount of energy to the play, allowing the audience to enjoy in its farcical nature.
Duggal’s writing was funny, entertaining and clever, drawing on contemporary and political references amusingly. Particularly successful were the more satirical characters who had more energy and fast paced comedic lines. Although the ‘twist’ ‘of Grim coming on at the end worked very well, it was a shame he wasn’t used more, as both the writing and Voulton’s characterisation were original and humorous, and gave us a taste of the best Duggal has to offer. Similarly, there were moments of exposition about Tony’s family life which seemed somewhat repetitive and clichéd, meaning some of the comedic energy was lost. Potentially, there seemed to be a better balance in these moments during the Scratch Night performance, and perhaps it would be worth pairing down in later drafts.
Unfortunately, I think Duggal’s writing and quick wit was sometimes let down by the actors. It seemed clear that lines were slightly unrehearsed and perhaps with more time or more attention payed to the choices in delivery, some of the cleverly crafted jokes would have had more of a reaction.
Generally, this production lived well up to my expectations and Sanderson, Duggal and crew should be commended. Perhaps with a slightly faster pace and an edit in the writing, it could make for a truly original and amusing piece.
Death as a Salesman will be playing in the DfoA Black Box at 7pm on the 13thJune.