Riding on a smile and a shoeshine - Death of a Salesman at Cambridge Arts Theatre

PUBLISHED: 06:35 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:54 05 May 2017

Nicholas Woodeson

Nicholas Woodeson


After the sudden death of actor Tim Pigott-Smith on April 7, the play he was about to star in, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Saleman, was halted on its tour.

After the tragic, sudden death of Tim Pigott-Smith, new leading man, Nicholas Woodeson (The Audience, The Homecoming, Rocket to the Moon and Taboo for BBC One) has taken on the role of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, which is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, May 6.

Arthur Miller’s Pulizer Prize winning masterpiece centres on Willy Loman, a once successful travelling salesman, who has got old. The world has moved on leaving him trailing behind.

Willy’s friend, Charlie explains the plight of a worn out salesman, as sad as some of the products he sells:

“He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that’s an earthquake.”

Willy is about to get sacked, he can’t get the sales any more. He and his long-suffering wife Linda have bills to pay. Why he asks, do the household appliances fall apart the moment you have made the last payment.

The plans Willy had for his family didn’t work out either. He thought his sons would “become something”. Why did Biff with so much potential drop out and let him down?

Why are other people’s lives so much more successful?

The play is a poem about the disintergration of the American dream. It asks whether the dream was always a fiction. To be convincing, salesman have to believe their own inventions and the dream of success is the biggest confection of all.

One of the most poignant pieces of theatre ever written is the scene where a broken old man is out in his backyard trying to plant flowers in the dark. Friday, May 5, 7.45pm, Saturday May 6 at 2.30pm and 7.45pm. Tickets 01223 503333 or cambridgeartstheatre.com.

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