Crime and cover-up

Aleks Sierz previews two productions of Arthur Miller's study of moral responsibility

All My Sons By Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller's first Broadway success, All My Sons (1947), tells the story of Joe Keller, a manufacturer who sold faulty goods to the army during the Second World War.

While his wife, Kate, can't believe that their son Larry (reported as missing in action) is really dead, their second son, Chris, forces his father to face his responsibility.

Director Ian Forrest, whose production is at the Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, says: "It's a play about the effect of the past on the present, of Joe Keller having to grapple with the consequences of an action which he took some years ago." It's about "moral responsibility, and seeing how your actions affect people, both your own family and others".

Forrest sums up the central theme of the play as "profit at the expense of the individual". In an age of corporate crime and cover up, it is, he says, obviously still relevant: "When politicians make decisions for their own benefit, they can turn out to be at the expense of other people's lives."

Ben Crocker, director of another production at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter, says, "The play contains many of Miller's concerns with man's responsibilities to society, but at the same time it's a very accessible story, with elements of a whodunnit because at first we don't know what Joe Keller has done."

Although Keller, "a thoroughly likeable man", believes in the capitalist ethic, he's a person who "puts certain things first, like love of his family, which we consider good", but he goes wrong when he lets someone else take the rap for his wrongdoing. "It's good to be told stories about how we fit into society - how we still have responsibility to each other."

In rep at Keswick until October 25 Box office: 017687 74411 (schools workshop, October 3) and at Exeter, October 3-19 Box office: 01392 493493 (school open day, October 14). The play is also at the York Theatre Royal, November 1-23 Box office: 01904 623 568

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