All My Sons

Written by Arthur Miller

Thurs 21st - Sat 23rd September & Tues 26th - Sat 30th September 1995

Directed by Damon Wakelin

A regular 'All American' family is in turn haunted and destroyed by the secrets of their past. Arthur Miller's absorbing and deeply moving play described as 'Ibsenesque' in its form, provided the playwright with one of his first major successes.

AuthorArthur Miller

Arthur Miller (1915 - 2005)

Arthur Miller was born in New York City. His father lost his business in the Depression and the family was forced to move to a smaller home in Brooklyn. As a young man, Miller held jobs ranging from radio singer to truck driver to clerk. Miller began writing plays as a student at the University of Michigan, joining the Federal Theatre Project in New York City after he received his degree.

His first Broadway play, 'The Man Who Had All the Luck' opened in 1944 and his next play 'All My Sons' received the Drama Critics' Circle Award. His 1949 'Death of a Salesman' won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered to be his most successful play.

In 1956 and 1957, Miller was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and was convicted of contempt of Congress for his refusal to identify writers believed to hold Communist sympathies. The following year, the United States Court of Appeals overturned the conviction. In 1959 the National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Drama. Miller was married three times, most famously, his second wife was Marilyn Monroe. His writing earned him a plethora of honours, including the Pulitzer Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an Olivier, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish prize. He held honorary doctorate degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University.

Throughout his life and work, Miller remained socially engaged and wrote with conscience, clarity, and compassion. Miller's work was infused with his sense of responsibility to humanity and to his audience.

PlayAll My Sons

'All My Sons' was written in 1947 and premiered in New York that year - a production which won two Tony Awards and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. It was twice adapted for film; in 1948, and again in 1987 and is often credited as Miller's final attempt to write a commercially successful play, after the failure his first play. It is based on a true story which Miller's mother read to him one day from an Ohio newspaper.

The story is set in August 1946 and revolves around the Keller family. Joe Keller is married to Kate. A successful businessman, he harbours a guilty war secret. One of their sons, Larry, has been missing in action for three years, and Kate still believes Larry will be found one day, so much so in fact that she refuses to allow any of her family to believe that Larry is dead. However, Larry's brother, Chris, wants to marry Larry's former girlfriend, Ann. If Chris marries Ann then Kate has to admit that Larry is really dead, and that in turn puts her relationship with her husband at risk.

The Bench Production

All My Sons poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Joe KellerDavid Penrose
Dr Jim BaylissPete Woodward
Frank LubeyNeil Pugmire
Sue BaylissSally Hartley
Lydia LubeyJulie Bryant
Chris KellerNick Ashton
BurtMaurice Peachey
Ann DeeverJuno Hollyhock
George DeeverAndrew Caple
Kate KellerRosemary Sawyer


Director Damon Wakelin
Stage Manager Gemma Harding
Assistant Stage Manager Daryl Wakelin
Lighting Design Steve Wilkins
Lighting Operation Steve Wilkins
Sound Chris Stacey
Costumes Natalie Wakelin
Poster Pete Woodward
Set Design David Penrose
Set Painting Daryl Wakelin
Natalie Wakelin
Set Construction Steve Wilkins
Publicity John O'Hanlon
Leonie Harrington
Front of House Lindy Nettleton
Sally Hartley


The NewsMike Allen

An electrifying trip to tragedy

Maybe Rosemary Sawyer should sue. She gives as electrifying performance as I can remember from an amateur actress - and doesn't even get her name in the programme! Still not much else is seriously wrong with the Bench Theatre production of Arthur Miller's 1947 classic.

Rosemary plays Kate Keller, wife of a man accused of knowingly and fatally supplying faulty aircraft parts in the war, and mother of an airman reported missing and presumed dead. At first she is a model of snappy-voiced tension. The actress then flowers into a vibrant non-sexual flirtatiousness that temporarily renders husband Jo's accuser impotent. In the final act she encompasses grief with a stillness that shouts louder than any grand gesture.

Miller's drama, which concerns the presence of the past in all we are and do, moves from apparent serenity to shocking tragedy. Set and lighting neatly capture the sense of a lazy, hazy American Sunday morning - but Damon Wakelin's otherwise sure-footed direction tends to allow the first act to drift in to sleepiness. It must not be hurried but needs an underlying air of scope for conflict.

The problem might be that David Penrose is just too relaxed as Joe. He seems entirely and admirably comfortable in the role but gives no sense of having a past he would prefer to keep hidden. When Joe briefly explodes with anger early in act two, and when the truth finally emerges, then the performance achieves full dramatic impact. Powerfully expressive performances come also from Nick Ashton as the Kellers' surviving son and from Juno Hollyhock as his girlfriend. The production continues until September 30.

The News, 22nd September 1995

Production Photographs