Imagine penning a play so remarkable, it would not only go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, but also the Tony Award for Best Revival… on 3 separate occasions. Oh, and the last of its Tony wins would come six decades after its first.
This is just one example (Death Of A Salesman, in case you were guessing!) of the monumental theatrical legacy that playwright Arthur Miller left behind. Famous for his revered plays, many of which can be found in critics’ lists of the finest American plays in the 20th century, his salient impact will soon be on display across Theatreland as four Miller masterpieces open in the next few months – including two this week…
The American Clock
Now playing at The Old Vic
One of Miller’s latter plays, The American Clock premiered in South Carolina in May 1980, transferring to Broadway in November of that year. Unlike many of his later plays, the show did not initially prove successful, and lasted only a few weeks. But showing the grit that defined many of his characters, Miller undertook substantial rewrites on The American Clock, and it went on to prove a hit on British shores, playing at the National Theatre in the latter half of 1986, where it was nominated for an Olivier Award.
The American Clock has enjoyed numerous successful productions since. And this latest revival at The Old Vic, headed up by visionary director Rachel Chavkin (whose imaginative interpretations sparkled in recent musicals (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812 and Hadestown), promises to be unlike any other. Celebrating the changing face of the American family, three separate sets of actors will play the central family – Moe, Rose and Lee Baum – in each performance, including the likes of Clarke Peters, Clare Burt and John Marquez.
Backed by a fusion of 1920s jazz and swing sounds, The American Clock – the story of the 1920s financial crash in New York City which would define a generation – is currently chiming stronger than ever at The Old Vic.
Now playing at Wyndham’s Theatre
One of the most remarkable aspects of Miller’s writing is his subtle ability to divert the dynamics of a scene. His works can – and often do – surprise you at a moment’s notice, but their underlying pragmatics emanate some serious tension along the way – just ask anybody who’s seen The Crucible’s court scene.
The Price is another twisting and turning play of Miller’s, as well as an acclaimed study of subversive relationships, this time between two brothers. Premiering on Broadway in 1968 to two Tony Award nominations, the show’s multiple subsequent revivals have also garnered Best Revival nods, and a recent 2017 production starred Danny Devito and Mark Ruffalo.
Returning to the West End this month starring the legendary David Suchet (perhaps best known for portraying detective Hercule Poirot) and Brendan Coyle (Mr Bates in Downton Abbey), The Price follows two warring brothers, thrown together when they asked to sell their dilapidated family furniture. There, the cost of their decisions comes to light – but not without a few dark secrets being unearthed first…
All My Sons
Playing at The Old Vic from 13 April
Broadway can be a difficult testing ground for any new play – and after The Man Who Had All The Luck flopped there (playing only four performances), Miller was ready to turn in and find another line of work. In a last-ditch attempt to forge a commercially successful play, he premiered All My Sons in 1947 – and never looked back.
Yet another production of Miller’s which went on to claim a Tony Awards for subsequent revivals, All My Sons was responsible for his first, as Best Author. The tragic play is based on true events, and follows a successful self-made businessman and his wife, both burying dark and destructive truths which continue to consume them. But the arrival of a visitor will force them to confront the tragedies that have blighted their whole lives.
A tragic tale of repercussions, All My Sons will feature a fittingly stunning cast when it arrives at The Old Vic, hot on the heels of The American Clock. This will be headed up by multi award winners Sally Field and Bill Pullman, as well as TV stars Jenna Coleman and Colin Morgan.
Death Of A Salesman
Playing at the Young Vic from 1 May
Widely regarded as one of the finest plays of the 20th – or indeed, any – century, Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman is a truly seminal work.
As a result of its aforementioned Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning exploits, the show marked the establishment of Miller as a major American dramatist, and proved perhaps his first worldwide hit. It follows a painfully insecure salesman who struggles to rise above mediocrity in the eyes of the American Dream, despite decades of dedication and graft – but who dreams of a better future for his son.
With decades of acclaim behind it, Death Of A Salesman demands a spectacular cast and creative team, and over at the Young Vic, they’re assembling just that: Wendell Pierce will make his UK stage debut in the lead role, alongside Sharon D Clarke and Arinzé Kene, in a production directed by Marianne Elliott. It promises to be a momentous occasion, befitting of one of theatre’s finest offerings.