All My Sons interview
May, 29 2016        Posted By Veronique        Comments Off on All My Sons interview

Questioning The Role Of Capitalism

Anita Hegh, who plays Sue Bayliss in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of All My Sons, tells Cyclone about letting audiences draw their own comparisons between the play’s 1940s setting and now.

Arthur Miller wrote a play for our times back in the late 1940s. All My Sons exposes capitalism’s latent corruption, the bleak side of the American Dream. Based on a real story, it revolves around two families torn apart by a shocking disclosure over 24 hours in a suburban backyard. Industrialist Joe Keller has allowed his (offstage) partner Steve Deever to take the rap for knowingly providing defective aircraft parts to the US Air Force during World War II, resulting in multiple casualties. His own serviceman son Larry is still MIA.

Acclaimed Sydney actor Anita Hegh plays neighbour Sue Bayliss in Kip Williams’ new Sydney Theatre Company production opposite John Howard (as Joe) and Robyn Nevin (Joe’s wife Kate). “I’ve got a bit of a break,” Hegh says down the phone between final rehearsals. “It’s not particularly demanding, this one for me, so I’ve been able to enjoy watching a lot of rehearsals and have a bit of time. It’s easy for me to sneak out of the room.”

All My Sons gave Miller his breakthrough. These days the drama tends to be overshadowed by Death Of A Salesman and The Crucible (in which Hegh appeared for the MTC in 2013), yet it could be the most pertinent for modern audiences. “They’ll recognise themselves probably!” Hegh laughs. “It’s the kind of world that we live in… There’s a real disillusionment and questioning of the role of capitalism, just as we are in our society now.” Hegh quotes the “phenomenal” Kate Tempest’s recent outburst on Q&A — “We are in the middle of a barbarous time and greed is at the root of it” — adding, “We’re getting greedier and greedier and greedier, but at what cost?”

Williams’ production is “very faithful” to Miller’s text. “I think there are certain pieces that speak more to the audience by actually keeping it as a time piece. You leave it really up to the audience to draw comparisons — to look at a piece like that and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s kind of just like now!'”

Hegh took up acting to conquer her shyness, securing a place at NIDA. “I’m not particularly confident speaking full sentences,” she reveals. “So, as an actor, to get up and have words be given to me, all the things that I feel inside… that was a real liberation for me.” Today she’s a stage veteran. Hegh is also known for her small screen roles in Stingers and, lately, Home And Away and Janet King.

In All My Sons, Hegh’s character Sue is a brash nurse married to Jim, a doctor. While he’s “an idealist”, she is “pragmatic”, an aspirational woman “trying to make that American Dream work.” The “tension” between them mirrors the play’s larger themes.

Miller has long been criticised for his disdainful representation of women (though he created a credible part for wife Marilyn Monroe in his screenplay The Misfits). But, as Hegh notes, in All Our Sons, Miller “puts the political into a domestic area” — one where women are at least present. “I don’t think that he’s particularly a feminist writer,” Hegh says. “It’s very much a world of men… I think he was writing of his time. He was interested in the political arena and it was mostly male-dominated — let’s face it. So that’s where his brain was.”