(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/2.)
Part of the greatness of the play, originally entitled Inside of His Head, lies in its ability to shift effortlessly not only between different time-zones but also between the psychological and the social. On the Freudian level, Miller’s Willy Loman is the archetypal boy-man living, even in his 60s, in a dream-world and unable to confront reality. But Willy is also a failing salesman reduced to surviving off commission and, in a crucial scene, abruptly sidelined by his machine-obsessed young boss. Miller offers us simultaneously a portrait of a lost individual, a drama about fathers and sons and a critique of the capitalist system. All this takes place in a play that, in a manner more common in cinema or the novel, seamlessly merges the present and the past.