Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman [1] is a play by American playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005) [2]. The classic 20th century American tragedy of the common man. Premiered on Broadway in February 1949.

The original text

The action takes place in Willy Loman's house and yard and in various places he visits in New York and Boston. An exhausted Willy Loman returned home after a cancelled business trip. His wife, Linda, worried about his state of mind after a recent car accident, suggests he asks his boss to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to his wife that Biff, their son, has still to prove himself. Despite Biff's promising athletic prowess at high school, he failed maths and was unable to enter university. Willy loses his job and it later comes out that he had been having an affair.

Translations and adaptations

An Afrikaans translation Dood van 'n Handelsreisiger by (translator?) was staged by PACT and SWAPAC in the early 1980s.

Translated into Afrikaans and adapted to a South African setting as Dood van 'n Verkoopsman by Andries Vrey in 2010.

Performance history in South Africa

1951/2: First produced South Africa by the Sarah Sylvia Company at the Labia Theatre in Cape Town and at the new Johannesburg Reps Theatre in Johannesburg with Israeli actor Jacob Ben-Ami as "Willy Loman" and Leon Gluckman as "Biff", co-directed by Ben-Ami and Gluckman.

August 14 - 18, 1962: Directed by David Barnett - producer and the Amateur Theatre Guild, also sometimes referred to as the Port Elizabeth Theatre Guild, at the Port Elizabeth City Hall. Starring David Barnett (Willy Loman), Helen Mann (Linda), Brian Gaven (Biff), Colin Ward (Happy), Alan Williams (Bernard), Ursula Burnett]] (Woman), John Hamber (Charley), Raymond Howell (Uncle Ben), Gerry Baker (Howard Wagner), Antoinette Assemaine (Jenny), Tommy Walker (Stanley), Jill Shepherd (Miss Forsythe), Cynthia Harvey (Letta) and Rob Binnell (Waiter).

1962-3: Presented by the Barn Players produced by David Bloomberg, at the Barn Theatre November 1962 and at the Little Theatre, University of Cape Town, from 30 January to 9 February 1963, with Percy Sieff, Johan Nell, Robin Malan and Yvonne Bryceland in the cast.

1975: Produced by PACT, directed by Ken Leach, featuring Joe Stewardson (Willy Loman), Diane Wilson (Linda), Bill Flynn (Biff), Richard Haines (Happy), Frantz Dobrowsky (Bernard), Helen Jessop (The Woman), Stuart Brown (Charley), Norman Coombes (Uncle Ben), Errol Ross (Howard Wagner), Diana Cox (Jenny), Denis Betterworth (Stanley), Ingrid von Bergen (Miss Forsythe) and Lesley Nott (Letta).

1979: Produced by CAPAB Drama opening 2 March 1979 at the Nico Malan Theatre, directed by Roy Sergeant, starring Michael Atkinson, Diane Wilson, Paul Slabolepszy, Ian Roberts, Neville Thomas, Joyce Bradley, Ronald France, Roger Dwyer, Peter Cartwright, Eileen Thorns, Brian Kennedy, Mary Dreyer, Clare Stopford, Simon Swindell. Set and costume designer Raimond Schoop, lighting designer John T. Baker. This production was dedicated to the memory of Johann Nell. Music composed and selected by Michael Tuffin.

198*: Presented by PACT in Afrikaans in the early 1980s under the title Dood van 'n Handelsreisiger starring Johan Malherbe, Louis van Niekerk as Willie Loman, Schalk Schoombie, Jocelyn Broderick.

198*: The Afrikaans translation Dood van 'n Handelsreisiger was staged by SWAPAC starring Alwyn van der Merwe.

2000: Produced by Spoornet State Theatre Productions at the Pretoria State Theatre and the National Arts Festival. Cast: Bill Flynn (as Willie Loman), Michele Maxwell (Linda), Martin le Maitre, Terence Reis (Biff), Frantz Dubrowsky, Dale Cutts, Justin Strydom and Iain Paton. Directed by Bobby Heaney.

2001: Produced by Bobby Heaney Productions (in association with the Baxter Theatre Centre), directed by Bobby Heaney, with Bill Flynn (Willy Loman), Frantz Dobrowsky (Charley), Dale Cutts (Uncle Ben), Martin le Maitre (Happy), Gideon Emery (Bernard), Langley Kirkwood (Biff), Michelle Maxwell (Linda), Jo da Silva (The Woman), Justin Strydom (Howard Wagner/ Stanley), Nathalie G'Mure (Jenny/Miss Forsythe) and Leona Loseby (Letta). Lighting design by Mannie Manim, music by Janine Neethling and set design by Stan Knight.

2010: Andries Vrey's Afrikaans translation/adaptation Dood van 'n Verkoopsman was staged at the KKNK and Aardklop arts festivals directed by Bobby Heaney (assisted by Henriëtta Gryffenberg), with Ben Kruger (Willy Loman), Bettie Kemp (Linda), Paul du Toit (Biff), Johan Baird (Happy), Louis van Niekerk (Oom Ben), Nicky Rebelo (Charley) and others.


Death of a Salesman theatre programme, Amateur Theatre Guild, 1962.

Tucker, 1997. 63.

NELM (1963 production): [Collection: KORT, Maurice]: 2012. 379. 10. 39 AND [Collection: SIEFF, Percy]: 2013. 25. 13. 1].

PACT theatre programme, 1975.

Death of a Salesman theatre programme (CAPAB), 1979.

National Arts Festival programme, 2000.

Review by Christina Kennedy in The Citizen, 25 July 2000.

The Star, 16 Aug 2000.

Beeld 28 Aug 2010.

Bobby Heaney Productions theatre programme, 2001.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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