Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece Death of A Salesman gets a re-wiring at the Young Vic with a black-cast led production. Wendell Pierce (The Wire) and Sharon D. Clarke are the couple that head this story about a crumbling American dream, family and race: powerless the couple watch as their lives fall apart, one stitch at a time. Pierce plays the aging salesman’s who as his wife Linda puts’ it “Loman is not a great man but he longs to be one”.
This is Marianne Elliott’s and Miranda Cromwell’s remake of a classic American play which many would have before seeing this production cast caution but Elliot/Cromwell have done this with merit. Pierce is the burly, blurting Willy Loman who is holding on by a thread and the only thing holding him together as his last glimpse of hope fades is wife Clarke. Pierce commands the stage with little effort knowing his range, the jovial humorous Loman fast deflates like a balloon, providing the performance expected of an actor who has earned his right in talent to appear in over 30 films.
There are some stretches to the imagination such as Loman’s affair with a white woman in 1940’s America may not have played out so well. Elliot/Cromwell’s exploration of race is not robust as you watch the play Loman becomes any other broken man who has failed in life.
Biff’s and Happy’s relationship with their father is captured by taking us back to when the now thirty-something year-old Biff was a popular high school baseball player and the present day where Biff has turned up again to return to his old room. Loman uses Biff as an emotional punchbag demonstrated through controlled bursts of contained rage and continued criticism of the man Biff has become, ironically Loman is not happy with the man he is.
Arinzé Kene and Martins Imhangbe as Biff and Happy do a good job with Arinze playing to his strengths as the son with the love hate/relationship with his father and Martins portraying the immature ladies man Happy. Sharon D. Clarke brings a stillness to Linda somehow her character is the only character who has a strong sense of purpose unfortunately that sense of purpose is to stop Loman from killing himself and to make the boys pay attention to their father. Once you settle in and become engrossed by the drama the 3hr play is quickly over added with good measure is the final scene in which Arinze and Clarke play it out with a song pulling together all the strong emotional elements of the play. A powerful end that serves as a requiem to Loman. Definitely a play to watch. (Image: sharon-d.-clarke-and-wendell-pierce credit: Brinkhoff mogenburg.) When: –
Marianne Elliott co-directs with Miranda Cromwell. Cast: Ian Bonar, Sharon D. Clarke, Trevor Cooper, Martins Imhangbe, Arinzé Kene, Joseph Mydell, Nenda Neurer, Wendell Pierce, Jennifer Saayeng, Matthew Seadon-Young, Maggie Service and Femi Temowo
Where: Address: 66 The Cut London SE1 8LZ
Transport: Tube/Rail: Waterloo Price: £10-£40. Runs 3hr Book Tickets