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Eternal classic asks tough questions
Sydney’s much-vaunted Eternity Playhouse opens this week with Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of a 1947 work by one of the most celebrated playwrights of the 20th century, Arthur Miller.
We spoke to All My Sons’ director Iain Sinclair during a break in rehearsals and found the mood more akin to Changing Rooms than a rehearsal room.
“It’s pretty hectic in there, with the building works finishing off as we rehearse. It’s been a long time waiting for this theatre to open, so there’s a real mood of excitement in the space – it’s all starting to feel real now,” Sinclair told the Star Observer.
All My Sons wasn’t originally intended to be the Playhouse’s opening show, but “the cards fell that way,” said Sinclair.
“Anyone who watches Grand Designs knows that the moving-in dates for buildings don’t always go as planned! It was wonderful for me – it’s not every day you get a call asking you to provide the opening show for a brand new theatre. I feel the pressure, but I’m very excited at the same time.”
Sinclair described All My Sons as a ‘hidden gem’ in Miller’s catalogue, which includes such iconic works as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible.
“I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on Miller, and this particular play always gets overshadowed. It was written in the time it’s set, and it’s just actors slugging it out on stage. Miller’s focus is purely on actor-to-actor interaction – in some ways it’s less ‘tricksy’ than some of his other works. It’s a big meaty, muscular piece of emotional theatre.”
The play is based on a true story, one that Miller’s mother-in-law pointed out in an Ohio newspaper. Joe Keller is the head of a small munitions factory during the second world war, when the pressure is on to produce as much stock as possible for use in the battlefield. Keller produces a batch of faulty munitions but decides to ship them off to war anyway, rather than risk losing his contract, and therefore, his family’s livelihood.
“Miller asks us, what would you do to protect your family, your kin? Would you be willing to sacrifice the welfare of others for that? Joe Napier thinks the welfare of his family is the most important thing in the world.”
Despite being a historical drama set in post-war 1947, as the fallout from Joe Keller’s decision affects his entire family, Sinclair said the issues where as relevant as ever for today’s audiences.
“Joe makes his money from war, so the play also asks – how do you live with making a whole lot of money based on the sacrifice of other people? It’s not like that’s changed much in the past 50 years. We’re still happy to live in a society where some people profit while others suffer. We all have to have a bit of moral myopia to get through the day, but how much is too much?”
info: All My Sons plays Eternity Playhouse until December 1. www.darlinghursttheatre.com
IAIN SINCLAIR: Directing the first production to be staged at the new Eternity Playhouse.