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All My Sons
All My Sons

Arena Theatre presents Arthur Miller's

All My Sons

Directed by Paul Nelson / Chris Tucker with permission from Josef Weinberger

Set in Joe and Kate Keller's garden, this moving and powerful drama of the ethics of profiteering and family is as poignant today as it was when it was first performed in 1947. The Kellers' son, Larry, has been lost in the Second World War. An apple tree, planted as a memorial to their son, has been torn down by a storm. Yet his loss is not the only part of the family's past they can't put behind them.

  • Performance Dates
  • Wed, 11 Nov 2015 20:00 at The Lighthouse, Poole - Tickets available here
  • Thu, 12 Nov 2015 14:00 at The Lighthouse, Poole - Tickets available here
  • Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:00 at The Lighthouse, Poole - Tickets available here
  • Fri, 13 Nov 2015 20:00 at The Lighthouse, Poole - Tickets available here
  • Sat, 14 Nov 2015 14:00 at The Lighthouse, Poole - Tickets available here
  • Sat, 14 Nov 2015 20:00 at The Lighthouse, Poole - Tickets available here
Blog Updates
Paul Nelson - Read through and auditions      21/06/2015

Read through will be Monday 6th July and audition, one week later, on Monday 13th July 2015. Both events will be held at Pokesdown Primary School, starting at 7.30pm
Paul Nelson - Cast List      19/07/2015

Cast announced for All My Sons. Go to All My Sons link to find out

Patrick Marsden

All My Sons is based on real-life events in 1944 when three Army Air Force officers, Lt-Col Frank C.
Greulich, Major Walter A. Ryan and Major William Bruckmann, were relieved of duty and later
convicted of neglect of duty, for conspiring with Army inspection officers to approve defective
aircraft engines destined for military use. The case attracted widespread media attention across the
United States at the time. Arthur Miller took this story as inspiration for the events surrounding the
Keller family in the play but it's so much more than a retelling of a true story. It is also a critical
attack on the concept of the 'American Dream' and a look on the fragile relationship between
parents and their children.

The play starts without an initial solid blackout beginning. I have noticed this to be a very popular
start in recent productions and it's a brilliant way of getting the audience settled and comfortable
with the actors on stage. I enjoyed the building of the set before the start, which made the audience
observe all of its different elements that they may have otherwise disregarded.

First, we meet Joe Keller (Matthew Ellison) and his son, Chris Keller (Nathan Linsdell), who
throughout the whole play are no doubt the strongest relationship in both its believability and
truthfulness. The way they bounce off and interrupt each other's dialogue gives a brilliant pace to
their scenes. The mother, Kate Keller (Francesca Folan), took a bit of time to warm up, really
blooming with emotion in the second act. Ann and George Deever (Clare Hawkins and Sam
Jenkinson) both show their training with diverse and gripping performances. I liked the way they
showed family strength between both of them. Lotte Fletcher-Jonk and Gareth Richards play the
Bayliss family and even with slightly smaller parts, they still hold their own with ease. Sophie Coulter,
Matt Saunders and Toby Batt bring light to quite a dark atmosphere. The moments they were on
were light relief for the audience, with comical and light-hearted exchanges.

The ending of the production is done superbly well; not to give anything away, but it really does give
the play what it needs with use of whole-cast narration. The director, Chris Tucker, puts a lot of
emphasis on the ending and must have found it hard with such a small stage to change the dynamics
of each scene.

There were some obvious technical issues on the first night but there were few hiccups in the actors’
Lianne Brown - Nerve News

Miller’s play is based on real events, the play tells the story of the Keller family. Joe Keller (played by Matthew Ellison) is an American Army Air officer who was acquitted of allegations of negligence of duty during the Second World War after faulty plane parts were shipped out, causing the deaths of 21 men. We learn that the family’s eldest son, Larry has been missing for three years and his mother Kate (played by Francesca Folan) still believes him to be alive, despite the protests of their other son Chris (portrayed by Nathan Linsdell). The Keller’s lives are thrown into uproar when family friend and daughter of Joe’s colleague who was jailed, Annie Deever (played by Clare Hawkins) comes to stay and shocking revelations about the Joe’s involvement in the crime come to light.
The show’s director, Chris Tucker, has been a lecturer at Bournemouth and Poole College for the past 10 years. Chris owned a theatre company called Burnt Toast and has performed in some Arena productions in the past, but this was his first time directing a play for the company.
The play has quite some important themes at its core. At its centre, “Miller was attacking the idea of the American dream and he is massively critical of that, the idea that everyone should be successful and that really is at the heart of it. And the conflict between being your ideal versus your moral”. Not only this but it draws heavily on the theme of loyalty and family and, the aspect which Chris felt was the most interesting, the idea that your parents aren’t perfect.
I could sense Chris’s passion for his production whilst speaking to him before the show. He said “it’s a really well known, often done play and I was really keen on trying to do something a little bit different with it whilst being a bit faithful to it because I really like it”.
It was this elusive ‘something different’ that really stood out to me. Continuing on, Chris spoke about including Brechtian techniques in the play which are “techniques that are jarring to an audience to remind them that they’re watching a piece of theatre” so as to encourage the audience to be “not just emotionally invested [but] a bit more analytical and you’re thinking about ‘what would I do in this situation?’”.
He told me there was an aspect of the play which had divided audiences’ opinions during other shows, something I was very intrigued about. Speaking after the show, I discovered that at moments of tension, the crew had played a low frequency hum to imitate the sound of the aeroplanes, something which had actually provoked complaints from older members of the audience at a previous show.
Much to my dismay, I realised I had not heard the hum, however, my friend and fellow English student, Rebecca Moar, had. When asked whether she liked this aspect, Rebecca said “it was unsettling – but it did work – I feel it was representative of Larry and of the guilt of his mum and dad at highly emotional moments”.
The cast of this production were superb and I could see some real shining stars amongst them. All of the actors worked so well together and the standard of performance was exceptional. The cast was made up of four experienced professionals, four graduates fresh out of training, all of whom went to Bournemouth and Poole College, and 12 year old Toby Batt who played Bert, making his debut. Each of the actors appeared comfortable in their roles and I was so impressed that they managed to maintain their American accents all the way through.
I particularly liked the actress who played Kate Keller, Francesca Folan. I felt Francesca captured the genuine emotions of a grief stricken mother; I felt everything she felt and one of her lines in which she was talking about imagining hearing Larry’s plane, “if I could touch it, I could save him” held so much power and pain that it brought a tear to my eye.
The characters of Dr Jim Baylis and his wife Sue (played brilliantly by Gareth Richards and Lotte Fletcher-Jonk) were the comedy duo of the play. There were many occasions where I was brought out in hooting laughter by something Sue had said. The comedy element working well at creating balance with the serious material of the play, meaning the audience were taken along a rollercoaster of ups and downs throughout.
There were two actors who really stood out to me. The first was Nathan Linsdell who played Joe Keller’s son, Chris, and what a fantastic actor he was. Nathan studied Performance at Southampton Solent University and this was his first show for Arena. He had such great stage presence and he was brilliant during the high emotion scenes; his anger was so real when he learned his father is not the person he thought was that I was genuinely worried he was going to punch Joe in the face. I grew really fond of Chris, especially when he was expressing his feelings for Annie in that heartfelt but still slightly cringey and awkward way that I’m sure all of us have experienced. Nathan seemed so in tune with his character; he mastered every emotion and this made him even more lovable to the audience and an absolute pleasure to watch.
The other actor I thought was spectactular was Sam Jenkinson who played Annie’s brother, George. Sam captured George’s menacing demeanour very well, so much so that I was almost scared of him. George carried himself in a way that demanded the attention of the entire audience; all eyes were on him as he appeared at the top of the stairs during the second act as if from nowhere, and descended as a deafening silence fell over the audience and the cast. There were a few heated moments between Chris and George that made me draw a quick intake of breath and had my heart pounding with adrenalin. I predict great things for this young man; his abundance of talent will, for sure, see him going places in the future.
The lighting and sound during this play were brilliantly engineered by Terri Jowett and Joanne Tyler. I loved the way the focus character of a particular section was highlighted very subtly by the character standing alone centre stage with a blue spotlight on them for a split second before disappearing. The use of rain and the humming of the aeroplane added a very real atmosphere to the play and helped to draw the audience into the story.
The set was minimal with only a large white block in the centre, two benches either side and a huge chalk board at the back on which Chris and Dr Jim drew the outline during the first act. This minimal set worked really well as the actors used the entire auditorium, particularly the stairways, as their stage, and this meant the audience had to actively use their imagination to fill in the gaps.
My absolute favourite scene of the play was at the end when all the characters are reeling from the revelations about Joe’s chequered past. Joe leaves backstage, with Chris and Kate left distraught in front of the audience. The rest of the cast pop out from nowhere and line the edge of the stage. As Chris and Kate remain in character, the others begin narrating the stage directions of the action. My heart was racing as a gunshot is heard and Chris comes back on stage with a look of sheer horror. My heart shattered as Kate lay on the stage alone crying and darkness descended signally that the play had come to its conclusion.
In all, I was taken on a journey with this play. I shared the highs and lows of the characters, portrayed by some very talented actors and left feeling emotionally drained but happy. I am very much looking forward to see what the future holds for all the members of the production. Chris is currently directing a college production of Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London and is hoping to return to Arena next year for the complete works of Shakespeare.
My biggest congratulations go out to the director, the cast and all of the crew who had clearly worked tirelessly to put on a fantastic show.
Jeremy Miles - Do More Magazine

Arthur Miller’s powerful and searching play about an all American family living with grief, guilt and denial in the aftermath of World War II was a huge success when it was first staged in the late 1940s. No wonder! Many people had witnessed unspeakable horrors… and not always on the battlefield.

Today, nearly 70 years on, Miller’s tragic masterpiece has lost none its power and Arena Theatre’s reworking gets right to the core of how, to paraphrase Philip Larkin, parents can mess up their children’s lives and how delusion and denial can only keep the lid on a dark secret for so long.

The subject is profiteering. Something that the head of the family Joe Keller, played by Matthew Ellison, hopes he has buried in the past. However the inconvenient fact that he allowed his factory - working flat-out for the war effort - to ship faulty aircraft components refuses to go away. Twenty airmen died and Joe avoided jail by pinning the blame on Steve Deever his one-time friend, colleague and next door neighbour.

The war has dealt the Kellers a bad hand. One of their sons, Larry, failed to return from a flying mission in the Far East. Three years later Joe’s wife Kate (Francesca Folan) refuses to believe that Larry is dead and their other son Chris (Nathan Lindell) can’t bring himself to admit that the father he idolises could possibly have done wrong.

It’s a toxic situation brought to a head when Chris invites the woman he wants to marry - Larry’s old girlfriend Ann (Clare Hawkins) daughter of the still-jailed Steve - to stay with the family. With a letter in her pocket and a brother on the warpath, Ann proves the unwitting and unwilling catalyst to the unveiling of some terrible truths and a tragic climax.

Director Chris Tucker and the excellent cast do a fine job with this deceptively complex play that draws on dramatic inspiration as far reaching as Henrik Ibsen and Greek tragedy.

There are superb performances particularly from Ellison as the ostensibly successful and devoted family man thriving in a post war America he no longer understands and living with the knowledge that his past can at any moment completely destroy his world. There is strong support from Folan, Lindell and Hawkins while Gareth Richards and Lotte Fletcher-Jonk as neighbours Dr Jim Bayliss and his wife Sue also deserve a special mention. A simple set and effective lights and sound (though I can’t help feeling that there might have been a gunshot missing) helped convey the mounting tension.

When he wrote All My Sons Arthur Miller was exploring the fragility of relationships between parents and children and of course tearing into the myth of the American Dream - a move that saw him hauled before the super-paranoid commie-hunting House of Un-American Activities. In an ironic twist, less than a decade later he was married to Marilyn Monroe and, at least when viewed through the twisted prism of the Hollywood publicity machine, living that very dream to the hilt. The reality of course was somewhat different.
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