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 play's 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 Salesman's greatness... What Gregory Doran's 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, Antony 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 Antony Sher gives "a deeply conceived, superbly detailed performance that reminds us that Willy is a man who has 'ever but slenderly known himself'... It's 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 Miller's 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 - all our dreams of success and transformation - 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 Antony's 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... Antony 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 he's 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 Loman's 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 one's pity, though that's largely thanks to Harriet Walter's performance as his wife Linda, a study of tired but tireless compassion... By the end, Greg Doran's 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 Loman's famous assertion that 'attention must be paid' to her husband. Although Willy's repeated humiliations are moving, too much of the writing is laboured and schematic. Matters are not helped in Greg Doran's fluent production by Antony Sher's 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.
Death of a Salesman - 3rd West End Revival - 2019
Previewed 24 October 2019, Opened 4 November 2019, Closed 4 January 2020 at the Piccadilly Theatre
A major revival of Arthur Miller's classic play Death of a Salesman in London starring Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke
This production, which transfers to London's West End following a sold-out run at the Young Vic, is staged by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell who bring a unique vision to this play as seen through the eyes of an African-American family.
The cast at the Piccadilly Theatre features Wendell Pierce as 'Willy Loman' and Sharon D. Clarke as his wife, 'Linda Loman', with Sope Dirisu as 'Biff Loman', Natey Jones as 'Happy Loman', Ian Bonar as 'Bernard', Trevor Cooper as 'Charley', along with Joseph Mydell as 'Ben Loman', Nenda Neurer as 'Letta', Carole Stennett as 'Miss Forsythe', Matthew Seadon-Young as 'Howard Wagner' / 'Stanley', Victoria Hailton-Barritt as 'The Woman' / 'Jennie', and Femi Temowo as 'Willy Loman's Father'. Directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell, with designs by Anna Fleischle, lighting by Aideen Malone, music by Femi Temowo, and sound by Carolyn Downing.
When this production opened here at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End in November 2019, Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard highighted that, "a hit at the Young Vic, this majestic reinvention of Arthur Miller's 1949 classic has become a phenomenon. It has at its heart two tremendous performances. Wendell Pierce fathoms startling depths of emotion as Willy Loman, a byproduct of the American Dream. He is matched by Sharon D Clarke as Linda, Willy's proud, stern, infinitely patient wife Linda. Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell's meticulous production holds you mesmerised for over three hours, and the ending is devastating." Clive Davis in the Times said that "this is a good production to see if you have reservations about the torrent of words in Arthur Miller's most famous play. Framed by Femi Temowo's arrangements of gospel and jazz - this version begins and ends with voices ascending to Heaven - Willy's delusional existence takes on an extra layer of dignity." Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph praised "Wendell Pierce's mesmerising fantasist Willy Loman", and "Sharon D Clarke as his achingly steadfast wife Linda," adding that although "the move from the Young Vic to the West End doesn't sit entirely happily, with the serrated intimacy provided by the smaller Young Vic stage inevitably compromised in this larger venue... the performances are wonderful, among the very best currently to be seen on stage... This is a long evening that refuses to rush its way to its final, terrible denouement."
This production was originally seen at the Young Vic Theatre in South London (previewed from 1 May 2019, opened on 9 May 2019, and closed on 13 July 2019) when the cast featured Wendell Pierce as 'Willy Loman' and Sharon D Clarke as 'Linda Loman', with Arinze Kene as 'Biff Loman', Martins Imhangbe as 'Happy Loman', Ian Bonar as 'Bernard', and Trevor Cooper as 'Charley', along with with Joseph Mydell as 'Ben Loman', Nenda Neurer as 'Letta', Jennifer Saayeng as 'Miss Forsythe', Matthew Seadon-Young as 'Howard Wagner' and 'Stanley', Maggie Service as 'The Woman' and 'Jennie', and Femi Temowo as 'Willy Loman's Father'.
When this production opened at the Young Vic Theatre in May 2019, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "Wendell Pierce is riveting in the lead as a man who in his mid-sixties becomes painfully aware that he has built his life on sandy ground... There are stirring, finely detailed performances all around him.... Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell have crafted something fresh, compassionate and ultimately devastating." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times hailed "this superb production... any production of Salesman stands or falls, however, on the quality of the performances. Here they are tremendous. As Willy, Wendell Pierce radiates a sort of wired exhaustion... Sharon D. Clarke is immensely moving as the still point of a spinning world... A revelatory production of a great play." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented that in "this remarkable revival of Arthur Miller's most famous play... mixing the socially specific and the dreamily phantasmagoric, depicts the duality at the heart of Miller's memory-play with exceptional clarity." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "this revival is more than three hours long but people sat forward, rapt, especially towards the end. Wendell Pierce really is brilliant as Willy... This production is something special." Heather Neill in the i newspaper thought that "although absolute emotional depths are not always reached in this production, the last few minutes, in which the magnificent Sharon D Clarke and Arinze Kene duet the Gospel hymn 'When the Trumpet Sounds', are overwhelming." Neil Norman in the Daily Express described how "Marianne Elliott's dazzling new production sets it in an African-American context and its themes prove universal to all races and creeds... It's fabulous." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail highlighted that "the remarkable thing about Wendell Pierce is that he's a big man who appears to shrink before our very eyes as he is repeatedly crushed in his attempts to get by. Even so, there is something about his Loman that feels defeated from the start; and that for me made his journey that bit less moving... It's a solid rendition - but I still find Miller's 'masterpiece' more to be endured than enjoyed." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph explained how "such is the meticulousness of the creative approach that the evening proves a landmark one on account of its revelatory power: it brilliantly argues the case for the Lomans to be 'translated' into a striving African-American family."
Wendell Pierce is probably best known for his roles as the attorney 'Robert Zane' in the television legal drama series Suits and 'Detective Bunk Moreland' in television crime drama series The Wire. He also played the role of the real-life civil rights leader and activist 'Hosea Williams' in the 2014 film Selma.
Sharon D. Clarke's London theatre credits include the title role of 'Caroline Thibodeaux' in Michael Longhurst's revival of the Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori musical Caroline, or Change at the Playhouse Theatre in 2018; the role of 'Mariah' in Timothy Sheader's revival of the Gershwin musical Porgy and Bess at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2014; the role of 'Oda Mae Brown' in Matthew Warchus' stage musical vesion of Ghost at the Piccadilly Theatre in 2011; the role of 'Mama Morton' in Walter Bobbie's revival of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre in 2004; the role of 'Killer Queen' in Christopher Renshaw's production of Ben Elton's Queen musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion in 2002; the role of 'Rafiki' in the stage musical The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre in 2000; the role of 'Rose' in Julia McKenzie's production of the musical version of Richard Harris' Stepping Out at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in 1997; and the role of 'General Matilda B Cartwright' in Richard Eyre's revival of the Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 1996.
Death of a Salesman in London at the Piccadilly Theatre previewed from 24 October 2019, opened on 4 November 2019, and closed on 4 January 2020