Published: 06/09/2015 14:40 - Updated: 04/09/2015 14:52

It's Miller-time as Eden Court marks playwright's centenary

Robbie Jack and Bryony Afferson as Chris and Ann in 'All My Sons'.
Robbie Jack and Bryony Afferson as Chris and Ann in 'All My Sons'.

IT will take Eden Court audiences just a couple of months to catch with half a century in the career of great American playwright Arthur Miller.

Scotland’s own Rapture Theatre company brings All My Sons, the first of its two productions marking Miller’s centenary year, to Eden Court next Monday, with one of his later plays, The Last Yankee, set to follow in November,

"We wanted to celebrate his centenary by doing a couple of his works, so audiences could see how his work developed over 50 odd years as a writer," director Michael Emans explained.

"All My Sons was written in 1947 and The Last Yankee was written in the 1990s, but great pieces of writing and both coming to Eden Court, so people will get a chance to see both plays. It’s part of our passion that you don’t necessarily have to be in the Central Belt to access really good quality theatre."

To achieve that, Emans has recruited some familiar faces to bring Miller’s words to the stage.

National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company veteran Paul Shelley plays Joe Keller, a businessman whose success hides a horrifying secret.

Playing his wife Kate is actress Trudie Goodwin, best known as The Bill’s Sergeant June Ackland and Georgia Sharma in Emmerdale, while Robbie Jack from BBC Scotland series Gary: Tank Commander plays their war veteran son Chris.

"When I first got involved in theatre, unless it was a Edinburgh or Glasgow, you tended not to get the really big names. I was really keen on getting big names out to Stirling, Kirkcaldy, Inverness — the places you might not expect to have them, so people get attracted to going out to theatre and the more people who go to theatre, the more valuable it becomes to society and therefore and the higher it goes up the politicians’ priority list," Emans said.

"The other thing is you don’t want people to go to the theatre because it’s good for them, you want them to go to be entertained and to have cast like Trudie and Robbie and Paul is going to help that.

"It’s a really high quality cast and even the actors people won’t recognise from their telly work are well known theatre faces."

At almost 70 years of age, Emans reckons All My Sons is still relevant to 21st century audiences touching on issues such as war profiteering, survivor guilt and the ever present tension between generations.

"Miller captured themes not just of the American Dream, but about families, relationships and different generations. One of the things that really inspired me to do this was the theme of idealism which is opposed or hampered or destroyed by forces around you that you have no control over," he said.

"All My Sons is set just after the Second World War when people were trying to re-acclimatise themselves to that way of life and a lot of veterans were asking if it was worth it. I suppose in a way, with modern day conflicts, we’ve become more reflective about that as well."

Miller, whose other work includes Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, is studied in schools across the world and Emans can see why.

"He’s one of those playwrights that is so good that, for a young person, they are very accessible, but they also teach you about the quality of the writing," he said.

"And because a lot of his work is to do with the generational gap, it’s something that a lot of people can identify with."

Thanks to Creative Scotland funding, Rapture Theatre has been able to employ voice coaches and experts on history experts and mental health issues to make the performance as authentic as possible.

"I’m really struck by the work the actors have done," Emans added.

"I think it’s reflective of the strength of the play, the quality of the people we have managed to attract to it. Its parts are tremendous and we’re thrilled to be able to give actors a chance to do it and to bring it to audiences."

All My Sons by Arthur Miller is at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, from Monday 7th to Wednesday 9th September at 8pm.

The Last Yankee comes to Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre on Thursday 5th November.

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