2015 marks the centenary of the birth of one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century – Arthur Miller. Born on 17 October 1915 in Harlem, New York City, to an Austrian Jewish immigrant family, Arthur grew up with relative wealth, before the Wall Street Crash of 1929 reversed his family fortunes, leaving him with nothing. His life and career are told most effectively through his 1987 work Timebends: a Life which uses memory to link passages of his life together to paint a detailed picture of Miller, from the controversy surrounding his plays during McCarthyism to his marriage to Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe.
His works for the stage are amongst the most prolific written throughout the twentieth century, and thanks to their strong characters and timeless themes, they are constantly revived in landmark productions around the world. The link made in his text to society, community and in particular the concept of the American Dream makes his work perfect for revivals and re-evaluation and have survived numerous stage and screen adaptations that continue to be seen in the West End and beyond.
A View From the Bridge, which initially ran at the Young Vic in 2014 transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre earlier this year, where it has played to sell-out houses throughout its limited run. Reinvented by celebrated director Ivo Van Hove, the domestic drama has been condensed to a one-act continuous drama that has audiences gripped to their seats. The stripped-back production is testimony to Miller's writing and the strong patriarchal domestic settings his writing often favours, which shows powerful and relatable bonds between families. Despite being a well-worn title, this production, which has been nominated for numerous awards, was unanimously well received by critics and has proven how even the most familiar of texts can be reinvented in a fresh light.
The Old Vic produced Miller's most popular title, The Crucible in 2015, in a production directed by Yaël Farber starring Richard Armitage as John Proctor. Thanks to Farber's meticulous direction, it felt as though we were watching the piece for the very first time. A perfect allegory of contemporary America at the time of McCarthyism, the tale of the Salem Witches is one of Miller's strongest examples of perfect story telling and his craft for characterisation.
The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre produced an atmospheric production of All My Sons – Miller's take on domestic life directly following the Second World War. Set on an idyllic summer's day in Joe and Kate Keller’s backyard, thoughts turn to their youngest son who was missing in action in WWII. As a visitor arrives to reveal a secret, it hits the family hard and shatters their pride in their son as well as their own self-belief. Like Death of a Salesman and A View From The Bridge, Miller shows a family on the brink of destruction whilst at the same time allowing the domesticity to reflect wider themes in society and beyond.
The Royal Shakespeare Company's 'salute' to Miller's centenary comes in the form of a new production of his 1949 play Death of a Salesman, directed by Gregory Doran and starring Antony Sher as the tragic lead, Willy Loman. The drama won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, along with the Tony Award for Best Play, after premiering on Broadway in February 1949 where it went on to run for 742 performances. It has since been revived four times in New York, winning three separate Tony Awards for Best Revival.