Death of a Salesman: From the Young Vic to the Piccadilly Theatre
Death of a Salesman is now closed at the Piccadilly Theatre. Why not check out shows opening at the Piccadilly Theatre here.
After wowing audiences at the Young Vic, Wendell Pierce and Sharon D. Clarke star in the West End transfer of Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre. Directed by Marianne Elliot and Miranda Cromwell, we take a look at why you need to see this critically-acclaimed, fresh revival.
All you need to know about Death of a Salesman
What happens in Death of a Salesman?
Throughout his life, Willy Loman has pursued a career as a New York salesman, frantically working to support his wife Linda and their sons Biff and Happy. Approaching retirement, his family become concerned with his state of mind, however Willy’s determination to continue working comes at a mental cost. As his inability to change sees him confront decisions throughout his life, learn what it means to pursue the American Dream in Death of a Salesman, examined through the eyes of an African-American family for the first time.
Who will star in the production?
Wendell Pierce will reprise his performance as Willy Loman from the Young Vic production. Previous theatre credits include The Piano Lesson and Serious Money on Broadway, as well as the Tony Award winning Clybourne Park as producer. Death of a Salesman will mark Pierce’s West End debut.
The Olivier-Award winning Sharon D. Clarke returns to the West End to star as Linda Loman, last in Caroline, or Change as Caroline Thibodeaux. Previous theatre credits include Chicago and We Will Rock You.
The cast of Death of a Salesman is completed by Sope Dirisu, Natey Jones, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Carole Stennett, Ian Bonar, Trevor Cooper, Joseph Mydell, Matthew Seadon-Young, Nenda Neurer, Femi Tomowo and Emmanuel Ogunjinmi.
What did critics say about Death of a Salesman?
“This is a play of epic stature, and it receives a production to match it in every regard. It’s just an all-out brilliant production; one of the very best I’ve ever seen of this forever-brilliant play.”
“Still, in Elliott and Cromwell’s moving, provocative, atmospheric production, musical theatre great Clarke does get to sing at intervals. A closing, spiritual-style number feels like a generous gesture, a sheen of dignity to Willy’s tragedy.”
“The play becomes not just about race but also about mental health, the fragility of masculinity, and the way these thing are so often entangled. The cast is exemplary throughout, the performances rich and moving, the production revelatory and atmospheric, and the last few moments, in which Kene and Clarke join voices, are heart-wrenching.”
Who is Arthur Miller?
One of America’s leading twentieth-century playwrights, Arthur Miller penned some of the greatest plays written including All My Sons, The Crucible and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Concerned with what it meant to live the American Dream, Miller began a writing career as a journalist but was left uninspired. Later brought to trial by the House of Un-American Activities Committee for his work, Arthur Miller’s works have influenced writers around the world. Find out more about Arthur Miller here.
When was Death of a Salesman first performed?
Death of a Salesman was first performed on Broadway on 10th February 1949, where it continued to run for 20 months. For the production, Miller won the Pulitzer Prize, also winning six Tony Awards. Read more about the 2019 Tony Awards here.
Broadway revivals of Death of a Salesman often attract large audiences, and has been revived four times:
- 1975: George C. Scott starred as Willy in a limited engagement, which ran for 71 performances.
- 1984: Dustin Hoffman played Willy Loman, which was later reopened in 1988 and won the Tony Award for best revival.
- 1999: Brian Dennehy won best actor in a play for his performance in the 1999 revival.
- 2012: Andrew Garfield and Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in the 2012 revival, which won four Tony Awards.
Notable London productions of Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman received its West End premiere on 28th July 1949, directed by Elia Kazan. However the concept of the American Dream didn’t translate favourably with all who saw it, with The Times stressing its unnecessary transfer from Broadway to London. The play opened at the Phoenix Theatre and closed on 28th January 1950.
The Arthur Miller play was performed at the National Theatre in the 1979/80 repertory season for 12 months, starring Warren Mitchell and Doreen Mantle. It was again performed as part of the 1996/97 NT repertory season, with performances in the Lyttelton Theatre.
Death of a Salesman was first performed in the West End from 16th May to 5th November 2005 at the Lyric Theatre. The cast featured Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman and Clare Higgins as Linda Loman. This revival production was originally staged on Broadway in 1999, with reviews stating that the show provided “faultless support in an emotion-charged evening.”
Tales of the Loman family were last told on a London stage from 13th May to 18th July 2015 at the Noel Coward Theatre. Antony Sher played Willy Loman alongside a cast incluing Harriet Walter, Brodie Ross and Joshua Richards to celebrate Miller’s centenary.