Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

02/06/2012 - 07/07/2012

Production Details

“A masterpiece” – The Times  

A brilliant and compelling story about two families in the aftermath of World War II, All My Sons was the first great success of Arthur Miller’s supremely influential career, winning a Tony Award for best new play, and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.  

Describing his feelings on watching an audience’s reaction to a performance of the play, Miller said: “The success of a play, especially one’s first success, is somewhat like pushing against a door which is suddenly opened from the other side. One may fall on one’s face or not, but certainly a new room is opened that was always securely shut until then. For myself, the experience was invigorating. It made it possible to dream of daring more and risking more. The audience sat in silence before the unwinding of All My Sons and gasped when they should have, and I tasted that power which is reserved, I imagine, for playwrights, which is to know that by one’s invention a mass of strangers has been publicly transfixed.”

Miller went on to write Death of a Salesman two years later (Pulitzer prize and Tony Award), The Crucible (Tony Award), A View from the Bridge and many other plays. He is considered one of the greatest dramatists in the history of American theatre.

All My Sons is an unforgettable family drama about loss, love and loyalties that escalates to an electrifying climax. 

Joe Keller and Herb Deever were once united in business but are now torn apart by an unspeakable crime. When Joe’s son, Chris, proposes to Herb’s daughter, Ann, he unleashes a flood of family secrets and hidden skeletons that will forever change both families.

Powerful and profoundly moving All My Sons is also urgently topical, reminding with thrilling dramatic force that truth matters, and deceit has terrible consequences.

“A modern classic … and one that those who see it will never forget.” – Daily Telegraph

“Extraordinary power and emotional depth … exerts the hypnotic force of a first-rate thriller.” – Charles Spencer

All My Sons stars a wonderful cast of Jeffrey Thomas, Emma Kinane, Richard Dey, Jessica Robinson, Martyn Wood, Erin Banks, Gavin Rutherford, Christopher Brougham with Lyndsey Garner, Dino Casanidis, Beck Taylor. 

It is directed by the multi-award winning Susan Wilson who won Director of the Year for Death of a Salesman in 2006. “An outstanding production” – DomPost, “World-class theatre … superb” – Theatreview

Set Design – John Hodgkins; Lighting Design – Ulli Briese; Costume Design – Paul Jenden; Music Composition – Gareth Hobbs.


Circa Theatre 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington 
2nd JUNE – 7th JULY

$25 SPECIALS  – Friday 1st June – 8pm;   Sunday 3rd June – 4pm;
AFTER SHOW FORUM – Tuesday 5th June
Performance times:
Tuesday & Wednesday – 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 8pm
Sunday – 4pm

Ticket Prices:
Adults – $46;  Concessions – $38;  Friends of Circa – $33
Under 25s – $25;  Groups 6+ – $39

BOOKINGS:  Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992  


Kate Keller:  EMMA KINANE
Sue Bayliss:  ERIN BANKS
Chris Keller:  RICHARD DEY
George Deever:  MARTYN WOOD
*By arrangement with NZ College of Performing Arts


Lighting Design:  ULLI BRIESE
Costume Design:  PAUL JENDEN
Music Composition and Sound Design:  GARETH HOBBS


Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator:  Ulli Briese
Fight Arranger:  Richard Dey
Dialect Coach:  Jane Keller
Asst Stage Manager:  Lyndsey Garner
Publicity:  Claire Treloar
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller, Kraftwork Design
Photography:  Stephen A’Court
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office Manager:  Linda Wilson   

Invaluable describing

Review by Toni Marks 02nd Jul 2012

(A review of the audio-described performance on Sunday 1 June.) 

This is a superb play that you must see. A tangle of principles, ethics, realities and family dynamics that is as entirely relevant now as in 1947. The excellent Circa production draws us into the tangle for an intense experience of good theatre.

Blind theatre-goers were able to touch tour the stage set before the play began which I found particularly valuable. I knew what was there and where the characters were throughout the play instead of having to imagine my own version. The three scenes of the play occur in the one setting which was an added luxury.

Sophie provided an unobtrusive audio description of important actions in the play. There was limited need for this during much of the time, apart from the identity of characters being quickly available when they entered the scene rather than being something that gradually became apparent.

Her description was invaluable during the climax of the play. Without this I would have missed the letter which is an important part of the last scene. I knew who had the letter when and who was doing what. This made it straightforward to know what was happening during the late stages. The drama of the final minutes was complete.

Thank you Circa and thank you Sophie. 


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Career best performances

Review by Lynn Freeman 09th Jun 2012

“There are people who hate so much they can tear the world to pieces”.   

Arthur Miller’s story resonates with a 2012 audience in ways he could never have imagined. All My Sons was written in 1947 in the shadow of World War II but the play’s dissection of corporate greed and dishonesty got me thinking about the reasons behind the current global recession. It is a masterful and insightful work that is one of the year’s must-sees. 

Two families are blighted by a wartime event when faulty plane parts from a manufacturer lead to the deaths of 21 men in combat. One of the business partners ends up in jail, the other gets off. It’s a classic case of secrets and lies, and the loyalty of children to their parents. Miller seeds doubt constantly so that you never are sure who’s telling the truth and who’s in denial.

So much rests on the shoulders of the leads and Susan Wilson has brought together a dream team. The first half is a slow build but the second is an explosion of emotions worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. A confrontation between idealistic son Chris Keller (Richard Dey) and his father Joe (JeffreyThomas) makes for one of the most electrifying moments I’ve seen in 17 years of reviewing.

Joe’s wife Kate (Emma Kinane) determinedly believes the son whose plane went down during the war, will return all these years later. These three actors turn in career best performances, supported strongly by Martyn Wood and Jessica Robinson who play George and Ann, the children of the jailed partner. They each have their own demons as they deal with their father’s downfall.

Standouts in the large cast also include Erin Banks and Gavin Rutherford as Sue and Jim Bayliss, the Keller’s neighbours. Jim sees his marriage as a prison sentence, and indeed the jail motif is used effectively throughout the play.

Susan Wilson has again brought Wellington an unforgettable Miller classic. A few years ago her Death of a Salesman was a knockout. All My Sons is another one.

John Hokdgins’ set of a weather beaten home represents a family in emotional decline, despite their wealth. Gareth Hobb’s sound design adds depth to production while Paul Jenden’s costumes are a delight.  


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Salutary revival of a frighteningly topical modern classic

Review by John Smythe 04th Jun 2012

It is simultaneously impressive and depressing that this play, written 65 years ago about the relationship between war and capitalism, remains so relevant in the context of financial corruption in high places and the USA war machine’s continuing exploits. 

Thank goodness that after the failure of his first-produced play, The Man Who Had All The Luck (which opened on Broadway in late 1944 and ran for only 4 performances), Arthur Miller didn’t give up but went on, aged 30-32, to write All My Sons, which opened in January 1947, then Death Of A Salesman two years later (which Susan Wilson directed so impressively at Circa in 2006) and so on.

Legend has it All My Sons was inspired both by the true story of a woman who turned her father in for supplying defective parts to the army, and by Henrik Isben’s The Wild Duck. I buy the former but question the latter, given the nature of the inciting incident and the outcome of the quest for truth.

It seems crystal clear to me that Miller is questioning the fundamentals of the private enterprise system that underpins our capitalist society when it values staying in business above all else, in pursuit of the elusive American Dream. And the stakes are especially high, and the morality especially questionable, when the business in question is feeding the insatiable war machine.  

A very dramatic prologue opening, not scripted as such by Miller (but created by director Howard Davies in the 2010 Apollo revival of his 2000 National Theatre production, seen, I believe, by Wilson) dramatises the ‘dark and stormy night’ wherein Kate Keller witnesses the damage done to the memorial tree she planted when her USA Air Force fighter pilot son Larry went missing-in-action, three and a half years ago.

Gareth Hobbs’ soundscape ingeniously captures the ambiguous possibility of this being an electrical storm or aerial warfare. Throughout the play his compositions support or enhance the more intense dramatic moments.

All My Sons is a very well-constructed three-act play, with a first act that lays the expositional foundations as neatly as the fake grass on John Hodgkins’ excellent set, depicting the back porch and yard of a family home on the outskirts of a small American town but more ‘distressed’ here than the script indicates. In retrospect that grass, the sense of façade, the emptiness behind an upstairs window and the fiery glow that flares beneath the home at times – as part of Ulli Briese’s brilliant lighting design – conspire to feed our growing awareness that lies underlie these middle American lives.

I don’t think I am alone in feeling, initially, that the set-ups are so clear that I can see what’s coming the proverbial mile off. But it’s not as simple as that and the twists and turns, the paradigm shifts and our senses of judgement are pushed and pulled as dramatically as in a potent court room battle. Despite its outward appearance as a domestic drama, it has the dramatic structure of a thriller.

No matter what the detractors of such contrived naturalistic theatre offer as alternatives, when excellent actors take on these roles – their presents rooted in unresolved pasts while their desired futures are impeded by circumstance, each other or themselves – All My Sons cannot help but resonate with a depth and breadth of human truth that is salutary, moving and satisfying. So it is with this Susan Wilson-directed production.

Kate Keller’s unwillingness to accept the loss of Larry is the first of many warped realities to surface and Emma Kinane anchors her firmly in that state while playing out the happy housewife she wants to be. Likewise Jeffrey Thomas overlays a brooding Joe Keller with the ebullience of a successful businessman and all-round great neighbourhood guy. Both express their sudden anger at any challenge to this status quo with a vehemence that belies their otherwise apparent complacency.

The surviving son, Chris Keller, is the one with the most forward momentum – wanting to marry Larry’s girlfriend Ann Deever – and so is the most frustrated at finding his way blocked. Richard Dey captures his dilemma perfectly, not only in this particular but also on the larger canvass of having to question his faith in truth, justice and the American way.

Jessica Robinson is ideal casting as Annie, who grew up next door and is the daughter of Joe’s ex business partner Steve, now languishing in prison for supplying the cracked cylinder heads to the USAAF which led directly to the deaths of 21 pilots. Initially glowing as a woman of the world who believes justice has been done, her conditioned notion that she needs a man – specifically Chris – to feel complete has no sooner surfaced than she too must confront the true nature of ‘manhood’ in go-ahead America. (It’s up to us to decide whether the male assertion that their women make them do it has any validity.)

Anne’s brother George, now a New York lawyer, appears only briefly but the similar yet concentrated emotional journey he goes through is powerfully distilled by Martyn Wood. Especially memorable is his transition from rigorous lawyer to the boy next door, returned to this role by the loving ministrations of Kate.

A theme of practicality, or pragmatism, versus idealism permeates the play and is embodied in the neighbour characters (a luxury, I feel bound to note, that few modern playwrights allow themselves these days, requiring much more from each ‘performing unit’ in the professional production equation).

Dr Jim Bayliss and his wife Sue now live in what was the Deever’s house. Gavin Rutherford brings a poignant note to Dr Jim’s frustration at being dragged back from his love of research to earn a better living in local practice, while Erin Banks’ Sue is ruthless in her determination to prioritise money and lifestyle above all else.

Over the other fence are the Lubeys. Lyndsey Gardner’s Lydia Lubey, who was George’s girlfriend before the war, is the domestic goddess incarnate, happily sewing clothes for all of their three children and delighted to renovate a hat for Kate. Her husband Frank – over-played, on opening night anyway, with inappropriate theatrical flourish by Chris Brougham – was always one year ahead of the draft and pursues astrology as a hobby in a way the feeds Kate’s fantasy.

Completing the cast is Bert, a neighbourhood boy played delightfully on opening night by Beck Taylor (who alternates with Dino Karsanidis). He has playfully – and portentously from a dramaturgical perspective – been appointed ‘policeman’ by Joe, and plays the Sheriff to the hilt.

Paul Jenden’s costume designs are impeccable, with gorgeous frocks for the younger women. As such, complete with immaculate make-up, they deliver a little too much of a fashion parade for a casual back yard Sunday (where going to church is never mentioned) but Robinson and Banks, who are clad in the brightest and most patterned prints, have the acting chops to quickly draw us deeper into their characters’ abiding concerns.

What impresses most is the frightening topicality of this modern classic, at a time when the US economy depends on the war machine’s employment of industry, and when huge moral lapses have been exposed in a system that values service to shareholders and personal wealth above all else. While its salutary revival has been welcomed in the UK and USA in recent years, it is remarkable to note this is the first professional production to be staged in Wellington. 


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Writer’s skill captured in compelling drama

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 04th Jun 2012

While better known for his later plays Death Of A Salesman and The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s first major work, All My Sons, just opened at Circa Theatre, is no less a compelling piece of drama. It focuses on various issues associated with a post WWII American family.

Joe Keller (Jeffrey Thomas) is a self made man, retired and living for today on the profits of his business.  His wife Kate (Emma Kinane) lives in the past when her eldest son was alive before he went missing in action, believing that one day he will return.

Their other son Chris (Richard Dey), running the family business, looks to the future when he will be independent and married to Ann (Jessica Robinson).  But Ann is the daughter of their previous neighbour who was also Joe’s business partner but who took the rap for some business irregularities.  She was also once in love with the missing son.

Ann has been away for three years but when Chris brings her home one weekend tensions and incriminations that have simmering below the surface boil over, exacerbated by the arrival of Ann’s brother George (Martyn Wood) until they end in violent and dramatic fashion. 

Love, loyalty and guilt and the conflict between personal and public responsibility are all at the heart of this exceptionally well written play as the consequences of the past unfold to effect the actions of the future.

Set in small town America in 1947, Susan Wilson’s production beautifully captures the sense of time and place with this production.  The realistic set of a house and backyard with symbolic weeping willows down the sides, the mood lighting, the costumes and make-up and the hair styles, all convey perfectly a sense of style of the period, although some of the family wealth could have been spent on painting the house.  And the mood music playing under the dialogue was unnecessary and distracting.

Although the opening exposition takes some time to get going, once the cast are in their stride they all, without exception, get to the play’s heart to bring it alive.

In particular Emma Kinane, as the mother Kate, brings both a warmth and fragility to the character, only just holding it together as she clings onto the hope that her missing son is still alive all the while being bombarded from all sides to face up to the reality of the situation.

And Richard Dey as son Chris conveys a wonderful sense of high principles and morality but is not without a chink in his armour when it comes to the crunch.

That much of the play resonates with what is happening in the world today, even though it was written over sixty years ago, is the mark of a truly great writer which this production does justice to and is well worth seeing.  


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