AussieTheatre’s Ben Neutze spoke to director Iain Sinclair about his upcoming production of Arthur Miller’s perennial classic All My Sons and the privilege of opening Sydney’s newest theatre – the Eternity Playhouse.
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was never meant to be the play that opened Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s new home, the Eternity Playhouse.
Iain Sinclair’s production was intended to be just part of the inaugural season at the brand new theatre, but by the time the theatre was ready for performances, several other productions were delayed, and the cast and crew of All My Sons were ready to start rehearsals.
“Anyone who watches Grand Designs knows that buildings always take a little longer than they’re intended to,” says Sinclair of the lengthy construction process.
Originally built as a Baptist Tabernacle, the 126-year-old building is undergoing the absolute final stages of its renovation into a 200-seat theatre by the City of Sydney. For the past week, Sinclair and the cast have been rehearsing in the theatre during the day, while construction workers have been in during the nights to put the finishing touches on the facilities.
“They knock off at 10am and then we come in to rehearse, and they return at 6pm,” Sinclair says. “I think they’ve been getting a bit of a kick out of hanging around with the actors, and the other way around as well.”
Sinclair has the privilege of being the first director to explore the space, which he says is massively exciting. But it also presents a number of challenges, and Sinclair says it’s impossible to know exactly how the theatre will feel when the first audience comes along.
“It’s a complete mystery to us,” he says. “It feels good, and it’s beautifully designed. Some theatres lend themselves to certain types of writing. I can only hope this theatre lends itself to Arthur Miller. I’ve got a feeling it does. It feels pretty rich and warm out there at the moment.”
Sinclair describes All My Sons as Miller at his simplest; while it touches on many of his regular notes – disillusionment about the ‘American Dream’ being a major one – it doesn’t have the same kind of bold, unusual dramatic statements as pieces like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible do. It’s a more traditional family drama, albeit with massive themes.
Sinclair has wanted to direct the work for quite a few years, but was waiting for the right team to be available. With Marshall Napier and Toni Scanlan leading the cast, and Luke Ede, Nate Edmondson and Nicholas Rayment behind the production, Sinclair has his dream team.
He believes that though the action is firmly planted in post-WWII America, the play speaks directly to today’s audiences.
“We’re talking about people who had just won the war and had profited from the war and were set to make a fortune hitherto unseen by humankind. Miller is really dealing with capitalism and what you have to close your eyes to morally in order to benefit.”
For this reason, Sinclair has gone slightly against the grain of recent Sydney productions of work from this era, and taken a traditional approach to the play, with period design and American accents.
“I’m all for adaptations and interpretations when it amplifies the thesis of the play,” he says. “In this one, it doesn’t need to be pulled out to speak to an audience. Often directors can get in the way of a play with their fantastic ideas. I want the actors to be free to do the work, rather than fighting to make some crazy concept work.”
It might seem an odd choice to kick off the Eternity Playhouse era with a traditional production of an American classic, but Sinclair believes the classics are an essential part of our cultural landscape that inform the way playwrights today tell stories.
“The fact that it’s opening the venue is a wonderful surprise, but a little bit daunting. I really hope we can pull it off. I think we’ve got strong enough actors and a strong enough script to do so.”
All My Sons begins performances at the Eternity Playhouse on Friday 1 November. Tickets are available at darlinghursttheatre.com