1: Ian, please could you tell me a little about the production of All My Sons and your role in it?
All My Sons is one of the great classic plays of the 21st century. It’s a family, domestic drama set just after the Second World War In a nutshell, the play is about what responsibility we have to people outside of our family circle, whether we have a responsibility to society in general or just to take care of ourselves and our family. In that sense, it’s a very relevant play for today.
The period in which it’s set was a time when in Europe and in the United States people were recovering and readjusting after the war and there was great deal of hope and idealism surrounding that. It’s in this atmosphere that the play is set.
My character, Joe Keller, is a 61 year-old business man who was responsible for manufacturing cylinder heads for American air force pilots and in doing so, he made a great deal of money. He has lost one of his sons, a pilot, Larry, who his wife is convinced will return and there is some unexpected news which reveals his culpability in the death of 20 American pilots. So in one sense, the play is a thriller, and in another it is an old-fashioned morality play. Miller himself talks of his plays in terms of what he calls ‘a Greco-Ibsen’ style, in one sense it is entirely naturalistic and in another it harps back to Greek plays. A kind of epic-naturalism. The play is highly charged emotionally and hopefully will be a rollercoaster for the audience.
2: Given the historical background to the play, what do you think it has to tell us about life in the early twenty first century?
I think it’s entirely relevant to today, particularly in the light of post-Thatcher denial of society and in the recent attention given to greed culture. The play touches on universal themes of humanity, responsibility but it’s told in a completely honest way, showing all sides of the argument. I think it’s a really important play in light of the collapse of the sense of community we currently have and a lot of themes in the play still hold true.
3: How important do you think Arthur Miller is to modern theatre? He is best remembered for a handful of plays and being married to Marilyn Monroe. Does he still have a place in the repertoire?
Absolutely, without question. In the tradition of great playwrights he has absorbed what is good about the past and adapted it for modern theatre and this has become very, very clear working on it. The dialogue is very real and is as naturalistic. Shakespeare stole from the past, Chekhov stole from Shakespeare and I think Miller steals from Ibsen. Placing it in a domestic setting, to approach universal themes, using the private and the public is a classic way for getting a message across. And like all great playwrights, he doesn’t judge his characters but tries to get underneath them to try to appreciate where they’re coming from. When you look at All My Sons and Death of a Salesman and what powerful plays they are, when you say a handful of plays, what he doesn’t have in quantity he makes up for in quality. He is in the real sense of the word, what I would call an accessible intellectual, whose ideas are listened to, one hopes.
4: What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the profession? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
There are two things I would have done differently, Firstly, I went to drama school to young, at 18, and if anyone is thinking they are anxious to go to drama school at that age, it might be better for some I feel to get some experience of real life to gain an understanding of people. You can only play what you know, so the more experience you have, the more you can bring to your work. Secondly, give yourself time to be absolutely sure you want to do it. I know, everybody says this but it’s a very tough profession and there are some excellent amateur companies in the country for some. I would say, you absolutely must want to perform above anything else, it’s a passion. Today, you have to have many skills to survive in the business; to sing, to dance, to act, all those three together would be ideal. The other piece of advice, is whatever you earn as an actor, save 20p in the pound!
5: What next for Ian Redford? Anything that Whatsonstage readers should look out for?
As always, I’m bound to say that there are many irons in the fire. I hope my agent is beavering away as we speak, looking for work. In the meantime, I’m writing a one-man show, based on the life of Samuel Johnson, to be performed in his house in Gough Square in December, which you can look up on the internet and book a ticket for. I’m also interested in the Verbatim Theatre and am doing a project with some students in January on alcoholism and also in 2010 I’m planning to go to New Zealand to teach and direct. But if Stephen Speilberg rings up, I’m not adverse to talking to him.
All My Sons
Thursday 8 October – Saturday 14 November 2009
Director Walter Meierjohann
Tickets and information: www.curveonline.co.uk / 0116 242 3595. Tickets £1 - £22