A modern classic comes to the Arts Theatre, with the American Dream under the microscope
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. It tells the story of Willy Loman, a once successful travelling salesman, who is forced to come to terms with his own mortality and fading strengths.
Willy’s story is told through action from his current life and flashbacks from his past. The play premiered in 1949 and won the Pulitzer prize for drama in that year, as well as a Tony for best play.
Death of a Salesman has been interpreted as a parable of the American Dream, as each character struggles in their own way to make sense of their lives and achievements. Willy has worked hard all his life to bring financial security to his family, but by the end of the play has concluded that he is worth more to them dead than alive, through his life insurance policy.
His sons, Biff and Happy, have had to deal with their father’s unrealistic ambitions for them and their own expectations of life versus its often harsh reality. Willy is critical of what they’ve achieved, but throughout the play relives memories of past events that help him to become aware that his sons’ lives have been affected by his own behavior, and that Biff in particular has had his life shaped by his growing knowledge of his father’s failings.
This major touring revival of Death of a Salesman stars Nicolas Woodeson as Willy, and is directed by Abigail Graham. It’s at Cambridge Arts Theatre from 4 to 6 May, with tickets from £18 to £38.