WHEN David Thacker took up the post of artistic director at the Octagon, his reputation for one thing in particular preceded him.
For David is widely regarded as one of the best directors of Arthur Miller in the world — and so it is fitting that his first production at the theatre should be Miller’s All My Sons.
The director worked closely with Miller on several of his plays, and they were full of praise for each other’s work.
But he isn’t the only person with a pedigree as far as Miller’s plays are concerned.
“Miller’s like family to us,” said Francesca Ryan who plays Sue Bayliss alongside her real-life husband Patrick Poletti, who plays Jim Bayliss.
Indeed, without Arthur Miller it is questionable whether the couple would be together. They met while acting in a production of Miller’s A View From The Bridge in Harrogate, although Patrick had already seen Francesca once onstage . . . in another Miller play, Broken Glass. Francesca even met the man himself on one occasion. “He was a man with a lot of presence and humour,” she said. “You were aware that you were meeting a legend.”
Bearing in mind David’s reputation, how are they finding working with the director?
“It doesn’t feel like hard work,” said Patrick. “David’s very patient.”
“He’s also very rigorous about making it truthful,” Fran added.
The play tells the story of Joe Keller, an everyday family man who was charged with, and then found innocent of, shipping damaged aeroplane cylinderheads out of his factory — an act which led to the death of 21 American army pilots. His business partner Steve, however, was convicted and sent to prison.
Joe’s son, Larry, who is himself a pilot, has been reported Missing In Action, but his presence is still felt in his mother’s insistence that he is alive and the effect this has on his brother Chris who wishes to marry Larry’s old sweetheart, who is also Steve’s daughter, Ann. The tangled web is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of George, Steve’s son, who reveals devastating truths.
Not only was All My Sons very powerful at the time it was written, just after the end of the Second World War, but its motif of a family pulled apart by war also feels very relevant now.
l All My Sons opens at the Octagon Theatre tonight and runs until October 24. Tickets cost £9-£18.50. To book, visit octagonbolton or ring 01204 520661.