Death Of A Salesman: Wendell Pierce’s Loman Won’t Sell You Short At The Young Vic

Death of a Salesman, Young Vic Theatre


Image: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

Colour-blind casting, though invariably well-intentioned, can often come at the expense of the social and political nuances of revived plays. With Death of a Salesman, co-directors Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell take a more thoughtful and deliberate approach. The resultant production is acutely conscious of the contextual implications of presenting Arthur Miller’s classic ‘as seen through the eyes of an African-American family’.

Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

This re-imagining works remarkably well, given that for no group did the American Dream ring more hollow than for African Americans: its artificiality expressed through designer Anna Fleischle’s empty doorframes, windows and chairs, all dangling from wires in the abstract shape of an invisible house.

Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

Wendell Pierce’s Willy Loman is at turns jovial and cantankerous, every bit as mercurial as the script demands. Pierce adeptly draws humour from the pathos as he drifts in and out of increasingly muddied reveries. The second half seems to move more swiftly than the first, as the unravelling of Willy’s mind gathers momentum against his own bewilderment and the futility of his family. Some moments are so emotionally charged they are genuinely difficult to watch.

Photo: Brinkhoff Mogenburg

The Young Vic’s Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah is very clear on the point that this is not merely a ‘black version of…’. Indeed, it is something far more; original and utterly devastating.

Death of a Salesman, Young Vic Theatre, The Cut, SE1 8LZ. Tickets £10-40, until 13 July 2019.

Last Updated 10 May 2019

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