All My Sons
By Arthur Miller
16 - 21 May, 2011
Girlfiend come to visit
Joe not sure he did the right thing
Ann meets Dr Bayliss who bought their house
Ann's brother come to take her away
This is arguably Miller’s strongest piece. Set in August 1947 Joe Keller is a man who loves his family above all else and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, in his struggle to make the family prosperous. Now sixty-one, he has lost one son in the war, and is keen to see his remaining son, Chris, settled. Chris wishes to marry Ann, the former fiancée of his brother, Larry. Their mother, Kate, believes Larry still to be alive. It is this belief which has enabled her, for three and a half years, to support Joe by keeping a secret of her own. Superb drama with a crushing finale.
All My Sons is a compelling story of love, guilt and the corrupting power of greed set against a backdrop of the aftermath of World War II. ‘Self-made’ Joe Keller and his business partner Steve Deever, have built up a business selling engine parts for fighter planes. The parts, however, were defective and the plot turns on this fact. In full knowledge that the parts were imperfect, Keller continues to sell them, being driven on by the desire for family wealth and success, regardless of the impact on his own family and friend, the potential risks to pilots’ lives and the overall war effort. Actions taken in the past gradually reveal themselves in the present, and the truth emerges slowly and painfully. Keller’s actions raise clear moral issues, but this is not simply a play about ethics. Miller said “Joe Keller’s trouble is not that he cannot tell right from wrong but that his cast of mind cannot admit that he, personally, has any viable connection with his world, his universe or his society”. If this is Keller’s “trouble” it is difficult to see how, and indeed if, he can ever accept responsibility for his actions and the consequences of them.
It took Miller two and a half years to write this play. At the end of the World War II he was 30 and impatient for success. His previous play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, a very theatrical piece attempting to “grasp wonder” failed badly, closing after four days in 1944. With All My Sons Miller was determined to learn from experience – this new play would be as un-theatrical as possible. Opening on a scene of perfect normality, Miller said his aim was for the audience to “mistake my play for life itself”. In directing this play I’ve attempted to reflect Miller’s original aim for it, i.e. to show the events unfolding as naturally as possible.
In All My Sons, together with A View from the Bridge (BLT 2006) and Death of a Salesman (BLT 2008), Miller explores the tension between personal and public responsibility and the need to face the consequences of one’s actions. These themes are bang up to date; consequently the plays continue to be produced by professionals and amateurs alike more than 60 years after they were written. It’s been a privilege for me to direct these three Arthur Miller plays for BLT, and to work with Julian Freeman (Keller) for the third time playing Miller’s protagonist! (I might regret this comment when rehearsals get underway!) As cast and crew we’ve worked hard to “do Miller justice”! I hope you enjoy this production, that it’s given you “food for thought” and that you’ve been entertained. Thank you for coming.