(Seen at the Young Vic theatre afternoon performance on 29th June 2019). Some
actors have now left the cast.
Rarely has a production of this Miller classic explored with such bleak clarity
the inner mind of salesman Willy Loman. The impressive jagged grey Anna
Fleischle set is exploited by co-directors Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell
to shed entirely new light on the person worn out by the system and his
responsibilities (and assumed responsibilities) towards it.
There’s fine work from the entire cast. Wendell Pierce is a Loman on the edge.
His grip is allowing the final sands of his life to slip ever more quickly
through his fingers, and there is startling numbness where there should be pain.
That pain is transferred all-to-visibly to wife Linda (Sharon D. Clarke). Her
final moments are such that she needs a real “moment” to recover at the final
curtain. Before that, her good-natured indulgence of her ill-used husband
descends into unbearable blackness when he leaves for work.
The difficult roles of Biff (Arinze Kene) and Happy (Martins Imhangbe) are cast
with fine young actors. Kene gives Biff rare intelligence, not just the usual
football meat. The revelation of his self-inflicted defeat builds until the last
moment, with Imhangbe providing both the questions and calibration of the event.
Their meeting with a pair of “ladies” (Jennifer Saayeng and Nenda Neurer) is
also a fittingly sordid one.
In smaller yet pivotal roles, Joseph Mydell is the mythic Uncle Ben, whose
ethereal appearances do much for both atmosphere and dramatic pace. Maggie
Service plays her part in Loman and son’s downfall with conviction, Femi Temowo
is the father who sets the wrong direction from the start, while Matthew Seadon-Young
and Trevor Cooper as Howard and Charley are perhaps what could and should have
By opting for inner dialogue, there is a possibility that the rawness of the
story is slightly glossed over. The significant musical element is perhaps
overly soothing what should be nerve-jangling – though there is also an argument
it in fact lends an underlining contrast.
What is certain is that the play has not just been revived, but re-thought with
a unifying concept, and not just for the sake of exploring characters from an
angle dreamed up by a directorial vision.
This takes the well known people and attempts to understand the leading
character and just what he represents to those around him, and to the nation in
general, to the great satisfaction of the audience.