Recently I met with the cast of ‘All My Sons’, the ADC Week 1 Main Show to get a taste of what was to come.
I sit down with the co-directors (and very good cooks) Hannah Calascione and Olivia Bowman as well as four of the cast for a chat. Fresh from the Fringe is Chris Born who will be playing the lead. We also have the charming Jazz Jagger, whose name really is that wonderful, and Tom Russell who someone remarks looks like Orlando Bloom. Finally there is Aoife Kennan rounding up this fine group of 'All My Sons' folk. As we settle on Hannah’s effortlessly cool balcony, the interview takes a startling turn when Aoife poses the first question. "Is anybody good at opening a cork?" And so we begin…
Why All My Sons?
Hannah – “We both love the play. I saw the Suchet production [of 'All My Sons'] and, even though I’d encountered Miller before, I wasn’t prepared for just how intense it would be! It was an unforgettable experience and I was so excited when Olivia said to me that she was interested in directing it too, I’ve enjoyed working together so much – it’s actually been a really long process!”
The directors explain how they had originally applied to stage the show in the Corpus Playroom before thinking about the ADC stage last term but had to change plans due to losing the performing rights. I asked them how their ideas changed.
Hannah – “Well for Corpus we wanted the garden to extend into the audience – use smells and things to immerse people and make them complicit in the tragedy. We’re still trying to create that immersion but now we’re being a lot more ambitious. We’re going to have house – a beautiful house and a beautiful garden – but show that it’s slowly breaking away at edges.”
And are the characters breaking away at the edges?
Aoife – “It’s been really interesting playing a role where every character on stage is a ticking time bomb. Even when you know the scene, and you know what’s going to happen, you’re on edge.”
Jazz – “I’ve been really enjoying the psychological depths of the characters – you’re sort of forced to feel empathy.”
Tom – “And even though there are these depths, the text isn’t that prescriptive. Miller has depths that are allusive, suggestive depths. There are lines in the play where one word can imply a hundred things.”
Miller’s classic play addresses what is commonly known as ‘The American Dream’. I asked the team what they thought about the existence of this both in historical terms and within the context of the play.
Chris – “Well, I can talk about this for hours! My dad’s from America and, like Miller, he came from a Jewish immigrant family. So I’ve seen people have this ideal and try to build a life out of it, get their children through university – it’s a tangible thing for me. Because so many people believe in it then there’s got to be something there, even if it’s just a historical ambition.”
Olivia – “But it’s also weirdly introverted.”
Tom – “It’s got to be tangible. You’ve got to have a nice house, but that materialism also extends to your family, you need to have the stable wife and children.”
Chris – “Yeah, and the neighbours – the neighbours are props too.”
This ability to comfortably shift into conversations about the play’s big thematic issues is apparent throughout our conversation. Greek tragedy and Ibsen are both cited, as is Miller’s ability to recycle tropes from other writers and, as Tom accurately puts it, “subvert them.” Later when I ask the actors what the highlight of the rehearsal process has been so far, Chris says “what I’ve really enjoyed is just hurling into some really big questions. Talking about them hours and not really reaching any conclusions. I don’t know if we’ll reach any answers but I assume by the end we will have…”
Tom – “Well, I don’t know if we’ll have answers, we’ll hopefully have a performance!”
Chris – “Well as the great Ian Mckellen said – ‘There will be no scripts on the night’. We’ll have thought a lot, we’ll have something.”
Out of everything that has been said, this excites me the most. The team clearly has a great enthusiasm about exploring the play’s knotty issues and are not afraid to mull them over for a while. They are clearly committed to drawing something beautiful from the text itself and, as “There will be no scripts on the night”, I cannot wait to see what they will do without them!
'All My Sons' will be running from Tuesday 14th to Saturday 18th October at 7.45pm (matinee 2.30pm Saturday) at the ADC Theatre . You can book tickets online at http://www.adctheatre.com/whats-on/drama/all-my-sons.aspx or by ringing the Box Office on 01223 300 085
Photo Credit: Hannah Calascione