Play by Arthur Miller. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine - In the new age of commerce and the Darwinian drive to succeed, Willy Loman is a relic. He wants the best for his family, and particularly his son Biff. But, firmly on life's downslope without ever having reached the peak, he has nothing left to offer them and resigns himself to the grim reality that he is worth more dead than alive. Told mainly in flashback sequences, Arthur Miller's 1949 play is rightly considered the electrifying masterpiece of America's greatest living playwright and a major realist milestone in twentieth century drama.
Death of a Salesman - Original London West End Production - 1949
Opened 28 July 1949, Closed 28 January 1950 at the Phoenix Theatre
The original cast featured Paul Muni as 'Willy Loman' with Katherine Alexander as 'Linda Loman', Frank Maxwell as 'Happy Loman', Kevin McCarthy as 'Biff Loman', Sam Main as 'Bernard' and Ralph Theadore as 'Charley'. Directed by Elia Kazan with sets and lighting by Jo Mielziner, costumes by Julia Sze and music by Alex North.
Death of a Salesman - London Revival (National Theatre) - 1979
Previewed 24 August 1979, Opened 20 September 1979, Closed 10 September 1980 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
The cast featured Warren Mitchell as 'Willy Loman' with Doreen Mantle as 'Linda Loman', David Baxt as 'Happy Loman', Stephen Greif as 'Biff Loman', Michael J Jackson as 'Bernard' and Harry Towb as 'Charley'. Directed by Michael Rudman with sets by John Gunter, costumes by Lindy Hemming, lighting by Mick Hughes, music by John White and sound by Rob Barnard.
Death of a Salesman - London Revival (National Theatre) - 1996
Previewed by 25 October 1996, Opened 31 October 1996, Closed 8 April 1997 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttleton Theatre
The cast featured Alun Armstrong as 'Willy Loman' with Marjorie Yates as 'Linda Loman', Corey Johnson as 'Happy Loman', Mark Strong as 'Biff Loman', Martin McDougall as 'Bernard' and Shane Rimmer as 'Charley'. Directed by David Thacker with movement by Lesley Hutchison, designs by Fran Thompsonn, lighting by Rick Fisher, music by Adrian Johnston and sound by Christopher Shutt.
Death of a Salesman - 1st West End Revival - 2005
Previewed 10 May 2005, Opened 16 May 2005, Closed 5 November 2005 at the Lyric Theatre
The cast featured Brian Dennehy as 'Willy Loman' and Clare Higgins as 'Linda Loman', Mark Bazeley as 'Happy Loman', Douglas Henshall as 'Biff Loman', Jonathan Aris as 'Bernard' and Howard Witt as 'Charley'. Directed by Robert Falls with sets by Mark Wendland, costumes by Birgit Rattenborg Wise, lighting by Michael Philippi and music and sound by Richard Woodbury.
This revival production, starring Brian Dennehy, was originally staged on Broadway in 1999, where it won The Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Director of a Play and Best Actor in a Play (for Brian Dennehy).
"Originally staged at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 1998, Robert Falls' production of Miller's 1949 classic brilliantly captures the clash between reality and fantasy, the cruel gravity that can bring an ordinary man to his knees. Mark Wendland's rotating set is full of sliding panels and spinning rooms, a disorientating palimpsest of past and present. Richard Woodbury's score of jazzy sidewalk screeching evokes a New York of fastmoving cars and firing horns, a world where lumbering beasts such as Loman must evolve or die... Yet, despite the play's status, you cannot pretend that the relentless anguish does not become wearing, or that there are not times when you can feel how the play has dated." The Sunday Times
"Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death Of A Salesman is, arguably, the great American tragedy, the story of a luckless man whose hopes, dreams and expectations of success, wealth, two fine sons and a perfect marriage turn to dust, as barren as the dirt in his back yard in Brooklyn. Robert Falls's American production comes to the West End partly recast with Brits, but with the magnificent screenactor Brian Dennehy in the lead... 'He's not the finest character that ever lived. But a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid,' says his wife. Dennehy doesn't merely deserve attention, he compels it. The production, however, is a bit ponderous and reverential; its lack of pace exposing the occasionally overstated nature of the play. That it moves you to tears, nevertheless, is thanks to two awesome performances. A must-see." The Mail on Sunday
"No wonder [Brian Dennehy's] Willy Loman, doomed salesman, won him a Tony award in New York. It is a memorable performance that builds slowly but achieves extraordinary highs. With our own Claire Higgins and Douglas Henshall giving him support, the result is a testament to the power and to the incisiveness of the playís author, the late Arthur Miller. What a remarkable play it is, this portrait of a man slipping, sliding, plummeting out of his American dream into the American ashcan and, self-deceiver though he always was, dimly aware of his fall." The Times
"Arthur Miller died in February, but lived to see the award-winning American production of his classic 1949 play. Its reputation preceded it to London, but few anticipated what a powerhouse performance we'd get from movie star Brian Dennehy as Willie Loman, the salesman defeated by a lifetime of shattered dreams. Good in films such as Silverado and F/X, Dennehy reaches what is surely the peak of his career as the embittered breadwinner struggling to make sense of life's disappointments. The mainly British supporting cast - Douglas Henshall and Clare Higgins, as son Biff and wife Linda - provide faultless support in an emotion-charged evening that made me weep." The Sun
Death of a Salesman in London at the Lyric Theatre previewed from 10 May 2005, opened on 16 May 2005 and closed on 5 November 2005.
Death of a Salesman - 2nd West End Revival - 2015
Previewed 9 May 2015, Opened 13 May 2015, Closed 18 July 2015 at the Noel Coward Theatre
Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The cast featured Antony Sher as 'Willy Loman' with Harriet Walter as 'Linda Loman', Alex Hassell as 'Biff Loman', Sam Marks as 'Happy Loman', Brodie Ross as 'Bernard' and Joshua Richards as 'Charley'. Directed by Gregory Doran with designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Tim Mitchell, music by Paul Englishby and sound by Jonathan Ruddick.
This production was originally staged by the RSC at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (previewed from 26 March 2015, opened on 1 April 2015 and closed on 2 May 2015). The entire cast from the Stratford staging reprised their roles for West End staging.
When this production opened at the Noel Coward Theatre in London in May 2015 Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard hailed how "this spot-on production from the RSC, transferring from Stratford, reminds us once more, in this centenary year of Arthur Miller's birth, of Salesmanís greatness... What Gregory Doranís production captures so well is the wrenching cycle of false hope and disappointment that powers the Loman household... Superb drama." Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted how "Gregory Doran's RSC production transfers from Stratford-upon-Avon to sit comfortably in the West End. Alert to the play's complexities, it reveals it to be infinitely more than a simple exposť of the fallacy of the American dream."
When this production originally opened at the RSC's Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 2015, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "thanks to Gregory Doran's superlative revival of Arthur Miller's 1949 slice of American slow-death, attention is paid, nay absolutely riveted, to poor, doomed Willy Loman," adding that as Willy Loman, Anthony Sher "triumphantly delivers the goods... it ranks as one of the finest, most touching performances of his career." Paul Taylor in the Independent said that "Antony Sher's piercing performance pulls off the feat of making you cringe and tearing at your heart simultaneously." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard thought that "Gregory Doran's production is respectful rather than revelatory. It's solid, weighty and lucid, but doesn't quite capture Arthur Miller's sickly lyricism or the dangerous fluidity of Willy Loman's awful fantasies." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented how Anthony Sher gives "a deeply conceived, superbly detailed performance that reminds us that Willy is a man who has 'ever but slenderly known himself'... Itís still a difficult play to stage because of its mix of memory and reality but Gregory Doran's impressive production achieves exactly the right physical fluidity." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times noted that the play "it is executed with a gorgeous fluidity... in a production which eloquently makes the case for commemorating the centenary of Arthur Millerís birth in a theatre whose raison d'etre is Shakespeare." Dominic Maxwell in the Times wrote that "Gregory Doran gives us a straight but smartly paced rendition of a radical play that shows us the ugly side of the American Dream ó all our dreams of success and transformation ó without sliding into cynicism. It is an honest, moving rendition of a story that knows how vital, and hard, it is to be honest with ourselves." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail described how "in Sir Antonyís hands [Willy Loman] is a ponderous nuisance and you can't help feeling he has been lucky not to have been fired long ago. When he finally leaves us, it ain't half a relief."
Antony Sher's recent West End acting credits include Arthur Miller's Broken Glass at the Vaudeville Theatre 2011, Jean Paul Sartre's Kean at the Apollo Theatre 2007 and Ronald Harwood's Mahler's Conversion at the Aldwych Theatre 2001. Harriet Walter recent West End credits include William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra at the Novello Theatre 2007, Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart at the Apollo Theatre 2005 and Moira Buffini's Dinner at the Wyndham's Theatre 2003.
"'Start big and you end big,' declares Willy Loman, the torch-holder of the sputtering, all but extinguished American dream in Arthur Miller's drama. Antony Sher's overblown central turn as Loman certainly starts and ends big, but the actor gives himself nowhere much to go in between. It's the small, quiet roles that illuminate Gregory Doran's revival of this 1949 classic about a burnt-out salesman fuelled by dreams of the past and future, but with only a tenuous involvement with the present... Anthony Sher's salesman virtually begs for approval from everyone around him. It's a sweat-inducing, infuriating portrayal, rather than a moving one. Harriet Walter, as Willy Loman's wife, with her understated weariness and concern, feels like a respite." The Sunday Times
"Antony Sher has never been better. As broad as heís tall, moustachioed with slicked-down hair, he resembles a chubby walrus. That his Willy Loman is well past his sell-by date is abundantly clear as he trudges, defeated, into his little house, weighed down by two huge suitcases of unsold stuff, plus a shedload of disappointment... Sher makes Lomanís ludicrous ability to contradict himself almost within the same breath funny as well as maddening. Indeed, his Loman is a mess of contradictions, rebarbative and yet stirring oneís pity, though thatís largely thanks to Harriet Walterís performance as his wife Linda, a study of tired but tireless compassion... By the end, Greg Doranís moving, compelling revival has clinched the deal, triumphantly." The Mail on Sunday
"Arthur Miller does not subscribe to the 'show not tell' school of playwriting, repeatedly underlining his message, not least in Linda Lomanís famous assertion that 'attention must be paid' to her husband. Although Willyís repeated humiliations are moving, too much of the writing is laboured and schematic. Matters are not helped in Greg Doranís fluent production by Anthony Sherís unease as Willy. His overemphatic delivery lacks pathos and retains too much of the Cheapside bluster of his recent Falstaff. Alex Hassell and Sam Marks are splendid as the sons, but the triumph of the evening belongs to Walter, whose Brooklyn idiom is as authentic as her pain." The Sunday Express
Death of a Salesman in London at the Noel Coward Theatre with previewed from 9 May 2015, opened on 13 May 2015 and closed on 18 July 2015.