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Death of a Salesman @ Young Vic (Play Review) Death of a Salesman @ Young Vic (Play Review)
Death of a Salesman @ Young Vic (Play Review)

Death of a Salesman deals with the rapid mental decline of a man who fails to accept changes in society as well as his ability to fend for his family. Told through a series of flashbacks, dreams, disagreements and physical confrontations we witness the last torturous 24 hours in Willy’s life.


Willy (Wendell Price), arrives home exhausted, rambling to himself about making mistakes driving, not seeing properly etc., this is a man who is clearly troubled. His wife Linda, admirably played by Sharon D Clarke, who despite knowing that Willy is living in denial chooses to protect both their feelings by accepting his delusions as truth.


When her sons Biff (Arinze Kene) and Happy (Martins Imhangbe) come to visit she tells them that the car accidents Willy has been having, were in fact suicide attempts. Shocked by this revelation, the boys agree to try to stay closer to home and start a business together. Biff decides to ask his former boss for a loan to fund the new venture.


In a recent interview, Wendell Price said his role as Willy Loman in the newly reworking of ‘Death of a Salesman’ left him totally exhausted y and it’s easy to see why. Wendell Price was in a word colossal as patriarch of the Loman family.


Price give a tour de force performance as a man who cannot comes to terms his lack of business success that he fantasises and hallucinates about lost opportunities for wealth, respect from his dead brother Ben and his peers alike.


It’s an agonising; heart wrenching and immersive watch as we see Price portray a man slowly destroy not only himself through his eventual suicide but also those around him.


Heightening the plays tension is the complex love hate relationship between Willy and his son Biff. Both want each other’s love and affection, but instead constantly argue. Willy feelings waver, sometimes criticising Biff’s lack of economic achievement and focus and other times praising his physical strength and initiative.


Arinze is delight to watch, switching seamlessly from malevolence to sensitivity and poignancy as he struggles to explain to his father that despite his desire and aspirations for fame and wealth, that he, like the rest of the family are nothing but losers.


Masterfully, he manages to convey aspects of this multi-faceted play, in that not everyone can achieve the ‘American Dream’ and that it is better to accept this than spend a lifetime of unhappiness trying.


Although Imhangbe as Happy, injects as much dynamism and jauntiness as possible into his role, his character never seems to be fully developed primarily because unlike Biff he hasn’t taken on board the burden of his father’s unrealistic aspirations and rather lives life on his own terms. He seems to always be on the periphery rather than in the centre of the action.


Sharon D Clarke brings passion and perceptiveness to her part, however similar to Imhangbe, her role is reduced to series of set pieces never being allowed unfortunately to reach the impressive heights of her Olivier Awards winning Caroline, Or Change role.


Marianne Elliot and Miranda Cromwell have lived up to artistic director’s Kwame Kwei-Armah in not just staging a ‘black version’ of a classic play. They have created a production that has urgency, relevance and potency that as relevant to our times today as when this play was written.


In doing so they have lead us to lead us to understand that irrespective of colour or status the American Dream was beyond most and only for a lucky few like Willy’s friend Charley.
Instead as we see in Willy Loman, the Dream only perpetuates a cycle of resentment, frustration, anger and in some cases self-destruction that many will recognise.


This is a breath-taking rew0rking of a classic that shouldn’t be missed at any cost. If you see any play this year, make it this one!


Until Sat 13 July, Death of Salesman, Young Vic, SE1 8LZ, For tickets and details visit: https://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/death-of-a-salesman

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