Death of a Salesman / MOVED TO SEPTEMBER 2021

Arthur Miller


Michal Dočekal

DEATH OF A SALESMAN Willy Loman is not the main character. The main character is his dream. A dream of success. Popularity. Acknowledgement. Fulfilment. A family out of an advertisement for life insurance. But Willy Loman is only a salesman behind the wheel of a run-down car. In a house that is falling apart, with a refrigerator on hire purchase. Where will his journey end in a world that is more and more complicated? Who can he still sell his own dignity to? Arthur Miller’s most famous play, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize. A requiem for the dream of an ordinary man who wakes up from his glittering dream to the merciless morning of reality. Who discovers that at the end of his life he has achieved one thing – he is worth more to everyone dead than alive.

This new staging is an adroit dramaturgical move. Although the play is set in post-war America, its theme resonates, sometimes with lesser and sometimes greater strength. A society focused on performance and success, one which sometimes deforms an individual to a tragic extent is hardly something foreign to contemporary audiences. (…) Michal Dočekal and dramaturg Simona Petrů have shortened and cut Millers’s play considerably; it runs for two hours with no interval. The American setting and the period coating have been eliminated; this is a more general study of human failure. Dočekal focuses on the gradual degradation of the main hero and the breakup of his family. This he sharpens even more into a battle of who can inflict more wounds.

Donutil’s Willy wants to appear assured and smiling, the way he has read in books on how to do business, but almost every time he experiences another laughable fiasco. Now he no longer even tries to feign success, but grimaces with an almost evil, hateful expression. He does not know how to express his feelings to his family, above all his sons, and this literally paralyses him, driving him to further desperate attacks. (…) Donutil nails the role of a man trying to keep up decorum, although humiliated and bumping along on the bottom. He is perfect in the glaringly uncomfortable scenes in which he grovels to his young boss, literally crawling in front of him, even though just a moment ago he had been lecturing about how to appear unruffled. It is in these paradoxes, which together make up the tragedy of a little man, that Donutil’s Willy is authentic and even moving. Dočekal does not show off as a director, but builds up the situations soberly, with an emphasis on the dialogues, purposefully allowing the actors to dominate. (…) Dočekal’s production can, of course, boast two other indisputable acting performances – the excellent Zuzana Kronerová as Linda, and Viktor Dvořák as Biff. Kronerová (…) above all manages in a very simple way to contain all the bitterness of her character; without pathos, but as if swallowing one pill after another, she accepts what is happening, calmly but at the same time with great internal distress, with a clear awareness of where things are heading.
– JANA MACHALICKÁ, Lidové noviny

The strongest are the menacing moments when Willy falls through time and seems to have one foot in the world that he has been heading towards since the start. In these scenes we see Miroslav Donutil as we have never known him before – his Willy is literally paralysed by powerlessness, huddled up in himself, wild-eyed at having seen the bare reality, and without the strength to even pretend anything any more (…).

The most moving figure is Zuzana Kronerová as Willy’s wife Linda. Strong, patient, matter-of-fact and empathetic to the point of self-destruction. Only once does she get angry, when her sons renege and abandon their disoriented father in the restaurant to which they had invited him for dinner. Kronerová has the great gift of arousing emotion even though she herself is very sparing with it on stage.
– MARIE RESLOVÁ, aktuálně.cz

MICHAL DOČEKAL (1965) studied direction at DAMU, followed by an internship at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. In 1991–1994 he was director at the Kašpar theatre company, and in 1994–2002 he reshaped Prague’s Divadlo Komedie as its director and artistic head (it won an Alfréd Radok Award for Theatre of the Year in 1996). >From 2002 to 2015 he was the artistic head of the National Theatre’s drama company, and for the next two years its director. In 2011 he was elected a member of the steering committee of the Union of European Theatres (UTE), which currently brings together 21 significant theatres throughout Europe. Since 2015 he has been president of the UTE. He regularly directs in foreign theatres (the Vígszínház in Budapest, the Hungarian Theatre in Cluj, the Teatrul Bulandra in Bucharest, the Aréna in Bratislava, the Slovak National Theatre). His productions have won a number of awards and have been invited to international festivals, such as the Divadlo festival in Pilsen, POSZT in Pécs, Interferences in Cluj, the Festival of National Theatres in Warsaw, MESS in Sarajevo, the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro in Bogota and others. From the 2018/19 season he has been the artistic head of the Prague City Theatres.

The PRAGUE CITY THEATRES are one of Prague’s most significant cultural institutions. Following its foundation in 1950, the company performed in several theatres in the surroundings of Wenceslas Square. The places have changed over time, but the spirit of the theatres remains the same. The Prague City Theatres’ most famous period came at the very beginning of the era of the legendary director Ota Ornest (1950 – 1972). Under his leadership, the theatres had one of the best companies of actors in the country. Among those who met in the green room were Rudolf Hrušínský, Lubomír Lipský, Václav Voska, Dana Medřická, Jaroslava Adamová, Jiřina Bohdalová and many others. The repertoire featured both classic drama and plays by modern Western playwrights, as well as comic plays and original Czech works. Under Ota Ornest and further colleagues, including Alfréd Radok, Miroslav Macháček, Václav Hudeček and Ladislav Vymětal, the Prague City Theatres possessed a high-quality company that set the shape of Czech acting for several decades. The Prague City Theatres functioned as a single company until the Velvet Revolution, after which the individual theatres became artistically independent. They were reconnected in 2006 under Ondřej Zajíc and Petr Svojtka. The 2018/2019 season saw the beginning of a new stage for the Prague City Theatres, with Daniel Přibyl becoming head, together with Michal Dočekal as artistic head. Their common goal is to transform the Prague City Theatres into a respected cultural institution that plays an active role in the development not only of Czech and European theatre, but of society as a whole. The Prague City Theatres received the Theatre Critics’ Award for Theatre of the Year in 2019.