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Death of a Salesman – God I love this show

Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell have treated us to a mesmerising evening that is overflowing with suspended furniture, sliding door frames, live music, Arinzé Kene in a vest and a inspired new version of Death of a Salesman, at the Young Vic. 

Inspired as in the Loman family are black, which casts their drudgery in pre-civil rights America in a whole different light. This Salesman stars Sharon D Clarke and Wendell Pierce as Linda and Willy Loman. 

Elliott and Cromwell co-direct with attention grabbing pace. And 70 years on, Arthur Miller’s play has chilling resonance. And it’s all here: the pathos, time bending and drama of intense despair. This revival illuminates the classic as the past haunts the present time and place majestically. 

Memory and reality are never overplayed.

Wendell Pierce

Wendell Pierce

It may demand a lot from audiences and take risks, but that’s what all great theatre should do. And if some don’t come off, it’s one of the few classic tragic plays that can usually fall back on its script or the astonishing performances of its cast.

Particular plaudits with Elliott & Harper’s impressive production, of course, go to Sharon D. Clarke who’s turned loyal wife Linda Loman into a thing of very slow-burning, bluesy pain. 

Wendell Pierce leads the collapse of the Loman family as the deluded Salesman: out of time. His Willy is lofty, pathetic and explosive. 

 Sharon D Clarke

Sharon D Clarke

The design by Anna Fleischle is a beautifully fragmented and disjointed shell of a home: The Young Vic shimmers in rich primary colours through short sharp bursts of light through a prism or wooden frames. Hats off to the glorious sound by Carolyn Downing and clever music by Temowo. 

Halfway through Act 1, though, I felt this was Marianne Elliott on both autopilot and at the peak of her powers: standing, at times, in the shadow of huge successes on both revivals of musical Company and Angels in America.

But Act 2 left me reeling and emotionally shattered. Make of that what you will. 

The final scene is 10/10. 

Personally, I thought the whole thing was so brilliantly executed that it should become a permanent fixture on The Cut. 

A perfect revival. 

Death of a Salesman runs at the Young Vic from May 9-June 29, youngvic.org

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