While Miller is best known for “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible”, “All My Sons” is undoubtedly one of his finest works. It is a tense and emotionally charged play about – among other things – responsibility, guilt, betrayal, despair dressed up as hope and about the settling or not settling for an unprincipled practicality.
The play is set at the end of the Second World War. Chris Keller returns home from his years in the military to find a world seemingly unchanged by the sacrifices his men and many others have made.
His father, Joe, a successful manufacturer, has been cleared by the Appeal Court of selling faulty aircraft parts which caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots.
Chris’s brother, Larry, who also served in the military, has been missing, presumed dear for nearly three years. HIs financée, Ann Deeve, has arrived at the Keller home – invited by Chris who believes he is in love with her.
But his mother, Kate, cannot accept Larry is dead. She trusts in her instinct that – somewhere, somehow – he is still alive.
The tensions within the family grow steadily as the past comes back to haunt the present with devastating results.
Henrik Ibsen took Greek tragedy into the 19th century, then Miller has taken it into present generations – helping audiences to relate to the tragedies in modern life.
All My Sons owes much of its format to the tragedies of ancient Greece and the work of the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen.
It is a tightly constructed drama set at the end of the Second World War and full of talking points. Indeed the cast and I have spent many hours – in the rehearsal room and the pub – discussing the issues and the characters who are at the centre of this drama.
Responsibility, crime, guilt, betrayal, loyalty, evasion, repression, denial, morality, choice, justice, money and capitalism, the instinct for self preservation, a dream of brotherhood and the relationship between fathers and sons. These are just some of the themes with which we have wrestled during the past few months.
It is most simplistic form All My Sons is a play about relatedness or the failure to connect. It is about despair dressed up as hope and about those who can and those who cannot settle for an unprincipled practicality.
I would like to give special thanks to Professor Christopher Bigsby, director of the Arthur Miller Centre at the University of East Anglia, for agreeing – prior to the start of rehearsals – to talk at length to myself and the cast about the play and the playwright.
A Message From the President
Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to RoughCast’s production of ‘All My Sons’.
Not only is this the company’s first foray into American drama, it is the first time it has performed the work of a living playwright.
Arthur Miller stands as a colossus astride 20th Century drama. It is especially apposite that RoughCast should have chosen the work of Arthur Miller with his strong local connection with the UEA having helped to establish the Arthur Miller centre for the study of American literature.
Most critics thought that he crafted his swan-song in the form of the autobiographical ‘Mr Peters Connections’. Not so. In his 88th year he has seen the production of his latest play ‘Resurrection Blues’.
In will be interesting to see how RoughCast manage the contrast between the great canvasses of ‘Macbeth’, ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Medea’ with Miller’s intense domestic cauldron.
Arthur Miller’s work has been described by the critics as a direct descendant of the plays of Henrik Ibsen. The great Norwegian dramatist (1828 – 1906) wrote a series of plays that used the claustrophobia of 19th Century Norwegian family life as the vehicle through which to expose prevailing problems and hypocrisies of morality in Norwegian society.
In ‘All My Sons’ the classic, comfortable American suburban family is chosen as the matrix through which to explore the great dilemma between personal greed, in this case for the benefit of the family and public responsibility. The family recurs throughout Miller’s canon as the conduit through which great moral issues are flushed. The Loman family in ‘Death of a Salesman’ (1949) is another example.
Written during the Second World War, in ‘All My Sons’ (1947) Miller creates an overlapping web of familial relationships through which he can roll out the drama. There is the mother and father’s relationship with each of their two sons. We see the tension between husband and wife. There is played out the filial bond between the two brothers.
Miller’s master stroke of genius is the creation of a character who never appears, but who influences the development of every relationship within the family and without. Larry Keller, son of Joe and Kate, the brother of Chris and the fiancé of Ann is an airman believed to be missing in action during the Second World War.
Larry’s absence (is he dead or is he alive?) haunts every scene of the play.
Mingling with the audiences during the last two productions, I have been struck by the number of comments comparing the company extremely favourably with their professional counterparts.
Unlike the professionals who to a large extent are spoon fed with facilities, not to say income, RoughCast is very much homespun working on a shoestring and totally dependant on the generosity of those who appreciate the work that they are doing.
I hope that you all have a very stimulating evening.