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25 September 13 - 26 October 13

All transaction charges are now dropped. You will no longer be charged for booking online or for using a card. The only charge will be for postage (£1.00) - and you can choose to collect your tickets from the Box Office instead!

A Royal Exchange Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company co-production

Created with flickr slideshow.

It is 1947. Joe and Kate Keller, an all-American couple, have the ghosts of World War II living in their own backyard.

Joe is a successful, self-made businessman, a loving family man and a pillar of the community. He is a partner in a machine shop building fighter plane parts. One thing overshadows Joe and Kate’s happiness - their son is missing in action, presumed dead by all but his mother…

This collaboration features two of the country’s most distinguished actors, Don Warrington MBE (RISING DAMP and DEATH IN PARADISE) and Doña Croll (best known as Vera Corrigan in DOCTORS). Michael Buffong is Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company. His previous credits for the Royal Exchange include the multi award-winning A RAISIN IN THE SUN and PRIVATE LIVES. 

Talawa Theatre Company will be in residency at the Royal Exchange during ALL MY SONS offering a series of master-classes and workshops. More information and details of how to get involved will be posted here soon.

‘The Exchange has always been a magical space for me. It seems a place of endless possibilities; it has the ability to be vast and in a moment to become incredibly intimate.” Michael Buffong

Have Your Say

Q&A with Director, Michael Buffong
Q&A with Director, Michael Buffong
We caught up with Michael Buffong to welcome him back to the Royal Exchange and find out a little more about his latest project - directing Arthur Miller's deeply moving and powerful drama ALL MY SONS...

'I think of directing a play as akin to conducting a piece of music. This music (with its rises and falls) should move you, you should be completely lost in it, not knowing where it will take you but not fearing the journey either.'

Read the full Q&A here...

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Rehearsal Blog - Week One
Rehearsal Blog - Week One
ALL MY SONS Rehearsal Blog - Week One

Written by Talawa Theatre

Welcome to the All My Sons rehearsal blog. Here you will find a diary detailing the rehearsal process to immerse you in our journey to discover Arthur Miller's classic story of deceit and responsibility.

This co-production between Talawa and the Royal Exchange began rehearsals in London, with our first week spent in Talawa's Old Street rehearsal room. We began with an introduction to Ellen Cairns' fantastic set, which brings the back garden of the Kellers' home into the Royal Exchange's in the round stage.

The intimacy of the Exchange's auditorium is beautifully suited to this play, with the surrounding audience gathered around the garden as if seeing through the poplar trees, piercing the seclusion of the yard.

After seeing where our play will take place, we read through the play together with the creative team to hear it for the first time. As a play, All My Sons is a gripping read, but to listen to its rhythms brought to life by our enviable cast is truly exciting.

Characters in this play operate at many levels of deceit and secrets are buried under years of suppression. People rarely say what they are thinking and the storm that precedes the play is an early expression of the turmoil to burst out later on. To get to grips with the play's complexity, therefore, we had a lot to discuss. 
In order to amplify the play's many resonances and bring the characters to their full expression we had to uncover the thoughts that play between the lines, the unspoken intentions, historical context and the nature of 1947 America.
After a full first day of insights and discovery we moved to a process of combing through the text closely for the rest of the week. Informed by our earlier discussion, we read the play again together, stopping to analyse the intentions and significance of key moments as we went, revealing the secrets that individuals covet and those shared between family members.
Joe and Kate Keller (played by Don Warrington and Dona Croll respectively) are very complex characters, with a rich family history that has been broken in two by the Second World War. Set only two years into peace time, America is still scarred by those who were lost. The shadow of the Keller's lost son, Larry and the fallout from Joe's wartime business activities bubble away beneath the surface of a seemingly peaceful August Sunday morning. The iceberg of information beneath the play's 24 hour action was interrogated fully to discover what drives the characters' innermost thoughts. What is really intended behind every word...

Understanding the text and getting to know the characters constituted the most part of our first week's journey. Alongside this we had our cast measured for costume and spent time with our dialect coach, Mark Langley to find out what the Mid West accent sounds like. The lilt is very particular and pronunciations have many idiosyncrasies that we picked through very carefully to make the rhythms an integral part of characterisations.

Now we travel to Manchester to continue rehearsing at the Royal Exchange. Check back next week to find out more about the second week's process as we get up on our feet to start staging in the round!

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Rehearsal Blog - Week Two
Rehearsal Blog - Week Two
Our first week at the Royal Exchange and a first pass of the play is complete, mapping the text scene by scene from start to finish on our feet in the rehearsal room.

Orientating ourselves in the space was the primary concern of this week’s work; learning the ropes of playing in the round so that there is always a degree of movement on stage. In the round presents a number of immediate challenges—where it is impossible to play to the entire audience at any one moment, conversely it is liberating to discover that wherever you face you will always be seen by some. As opposed to the proscenium arch, it is impossible to have your back to the audience. Equally, the sense of exposure means performances can be read from every angle. However, it is important not to get too close to one another and to ensure that angles are always at play so that bodies never all face in the same direction. From his five previous productions, including A Raisin in the Sun and Private Lives, Michael knows the Royal Exchange space very well and confidently ensured that angles and distance are always open to include as much of the audience as possible at every moment.

Whilst establishing the conventions of the space in terms of the garden and neighbourhood geography, we have also been discovering the atmospheric sense of every corner, choosing where in the garden space to best play certain moments so that public and private exchanges create a very different landscape. Our superb stage management team, led by SM, Scott McDonald and DSM, Amy Bending have had the rehearsal room fully kitted out with all furniture and props from day one so that we were able to launch straight into our discovery of the back yard.

After our first day’s work we had our full team to meet; the Royal Exchange staff who are the engine behind our production and the day to day running of the theatre. Designer, Ellen Cairns introduced the model to all departments and we had a few generous glasses of wine with everyone from Education, Finance, Marketing and Production. As a coproduction there is an amazing sense of warmth and collaborative energy between everyone involved.

This week we also had our first rehearsal with the younger members of our cast, Mayowah, Nyah and J’Mai, all playing the vivacious 8 year old Bert, who polices the neighbourhood under the instruction of Joe Keller. They were over the moon to be with us and even after a long day at school brought buckets of energy into the room, excitedly telling us that no one at school yet believes they are acting at the Royal Exchange!

Between costume fittings, hair consultations, interviews and rehearsals the pace feels thick and fast as we advance our understanding of the textual nuances, build the musculature of characterisations and lay early foundations for the crescendos to come.

On Thursday evening, Michael Buffong and Talawa’s Executive Producer, Christopher Rodriguez, led a workshop for emerging playwrights to identify the structural dramaturgy that makes All My Sons a powerful drama on a human, societal, and philosophical scale. Beginning by analysing the changing shape of the relationship between husband and wife across the course of the play, Christopher outlined how growth and change in an interpersonal conflict’s dynamic is key to underpinning dramatic movement throughout the entire play and any drama. Using this as a model for good playwriting, Christopher explored how all drama must include elements of inner, interpersonal and societal conflict, so that individual scenes always show different facets of individual personalities and express movement within relationships. To read more about the content of this workshop, please click here…

After an energetic week on our feet, with a sense of satisfaction to reach the play’s conclusion on Friday afternoon, we disbanded on a high to take a well-earned weekend’s rest. Check in next week for another bout of epic drama in the American Mid-West!

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Rehearsal Blog - Week Three
Rehearsal Blog - Week Three
With the final week in our rehearsal room complete, we move to the theatre from Monday to start placing the picture in its frame. Whilst shaping texture, detail and pace, this week's work has been about finding the tonal movement within and between acts so that individual dominoes become chain reactions, building momentum to climactic explosions.

On Wednesday we did our first full run of Act One, forming the lion's share of the play. Only now, when seeing the whole played out at full pelt, does the play's true power start to emerge. "It's all mixed up with so many other things", says Chris of his sexual inadequacy; as this process of discovery, dissection and analysis continues, the real complexity of Miller's interwoven plotting still staggers. Just how much cause and effect is at play between story lines and individuals' conflicting objectives is hard to describe-this family's security is a house of cards built on quicksand.

Considering the play's structure-three monolithic acts that bring to bear 40 years' history over a fraught 24 hour period-maneuvering through an hour's nonstop action without scene breaks or breathers takes the right combination of steam, moulding and practice. Imagine setting off on the brink of a sheer slalom run, featuring twists, turns and pitfalls-every moment counts and has an impact on the next; you're only home and dry when the lights go down.

"Violence is a loss of reason"
Sage words from our fight director, Brett Yount made us consider the full narrative behind a slap or a shove. From reading a slap on the page to seeing it happen in the landscape of an argument, you realise that there are many choices to be made about the quality it should have and the story it should tell. In this intense family drama where years of denial erupt in volcanic conflicts, there are occasions where words give way to violence and, as key moments, they have to be given the right consideration. 

During his visit this week, Brett asked us to examine the numerous options behind the quality of hands on storytelling. Asking incisive questions about relationship dynamics, we were able to ensure that the physical moments become deeply truthful and tell a thousand words in an instant. Whether an attack is deliberate or spontaneous has the effect of altering the entire family narrative-if cold and decided upon, it can tell of a violent history; if an uncontrollable explosion that occurs through proximity and anger, then it becomes a more isolated incident. Also important is what frames the violence in the moments before and after, so that cause and effect serve to complete the full story of a violent instant.

We also had decisions to make about whether the violence should be contact or non-contact-with implications for the actors over a five week run. Realising just how much goes into a fight director's work was fascinating and we were lucky to have Brett's expertise.

In technical terms we have continued to map the garden's geography in the round. On Monday, after last week's work, Michael introduced an additional seat by the broken tree-a symbol of memorial for the Keller's dead son. This choice opened up a cascade of further staging options but also served to heighten the emotional resonance of the tree itself as a place to sit and reflect.

Whilst keeping staging free, within the bounds of what plays best in the round, Michael has focused on distilling the level of movement to a pure essence so that every gesture and step has a concentrated effect on the audience. The power to stand and hold your space in 360 degrees, so that movements are fewer but resound in effect on the audience, is part of Michael's knowledge about what works in the Royal Exchange space. For more detail on Michael's approach to staging in the round, there will follow a report on his directors' workshop this week, when 30 young directors came to learn about the All My Sons rehearsal process and discuss the nature of their craft.

Getting the tone and temperature of each scene right has been an important focus this week, and is particularly delicate work for the cautious intimacy of the lovers' scenes. Chris, the surviving son, and Ann, his dead brother's sweetheart, are trying to broach the subject of an unspoken love for one another. Hard enough with Larry's ghost looming between them, but the family garden setting also means that privacy is always under threat, surrounded by prying ears and eyes. Finding the awkward, tentative nature of these scenes takes detailed work and experimentation.

We have also been spending time orchestrating some complex symphonies of off stage dialogue and stage action that run simultaneously at certain moments. The offstage world of the house overlaps into the garden through a heated telephone call that is heard from within. Staging these sections so that they become natural but achieve full dramatic potential takes some conducting so that the right parts of each speech reverberate through each other's gaps.

Characterisations are also becoming more full bodied. Our cast are finding new rhythms, idiosyncrasies and tendencies on a daily basis. As the characters' rhythms start to take over, it is spooky to watch physicalities change, tempos shift and expressions contort so that the actors we know are lost to the heavier, more dangerous and brooding characters of Miller's world. The full musculature of Miller's character psychology is rich and damaged and, as emotional states are embodied, they start to affect the tone of the play. In particular, Kate Keller's delicate emotional state, caused by a vivid nightmare the night before, has an enormous impact on the atmosphere of Act One.

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Rehearsal Blog - Week Four
Rehearsal Blog - Week Four
All My Sons Rehearsal Blog Week Four
A week in the Royal Exchange’s incredible theatre, and what a week it’s been! Transferring the work from the rehearsal room to the space is a seminal part of any process; everything immediately feels different going from the familiarity of a contained room, the majority of which is marked out as playing space, to the comparatively epic proportions of a theatre, where the stage is only a fraction of the auditorium’s architecture—empty space waiting to be filled with eyes and ears.

In the Royal Exchange’s unique module theatre this leap is an even more significant change. On a proscenium stage it is relatively easy to maintain some notion of familiarity with the stage space as it appeared on the rehearsal room mark-up—orientation is relatively straightforward because three of the four walls still surround you and the auditorium feels quite separate, extending in just one plane. In the round, however, the extension of space can be felt in all directions and the visual markers to aid the actors’ orientation are nearly all erased. As a result, the sense of wonder as the company entered the theatre on Monday was excitedly apprehensive. The height of the theatre was immediately apparent; the Exchange’s three tier levels rise directly over the stage in stark contrast to the rehearsal room’s low ceiling. Even without any bums on seats, everyone is immediately aware of the audience you have to reach in all dimensions.

In practical terms the immediate differences between the rehearsal room and the stage are the entrance aisles, which stretch a few metres to the doors of the theatre and affect entrance timings, whilst also providing new opportunities to find sweet spots where you can play without any audience behind you. Also new to us was the raised platform for the porch, which has been created with rehearsal rostra so that we can now feel the height difference between being near the house and being in the garden. Playing with these different levels instantly creates new dynamics and stage pictures. The most liberating difference is the sense of space; whereas in the rehearsal room moving to the edge of the mark-up didn’t feel like a good place to be because you either hit a wall or the stage management desk, now there are no boundaries to be inhibited by and the sense of proximity to the first audience row is electric.

Nowhere was the excitement more apparent than on the faces of our three child actors as they stepped on stage for the first time to run the play with us. Limitless as their confidence seemed to be, they couldn’t help but feel very small at first, craning their necks to see the second balcony level looming above them. They soon rose to the challenge, however, and filled the space with voices that could carry the length of a playground, causing a lot of laughter amongst the cast to see the great work they’ve been doing in rehearsal.

Performances have grown steadily to meet the new sense of space as we continued to run the play throughout the week in a gentle but steady magnification of every aspect of our production. During the first run in the space on Monday, things felt a little delicate and swallowed within the empty expanse. By Friday, however, voices, bodies and connections had been amplified to match the theatre’s enormity, embracing the scale of the play’s frame. As much as this growth is about the actors’ technical dexterity to fill a bigger space vocally and physically, it is fascinating to see the more intangible, reciprocal relationship between the space and the play in action—as if the theatre’s acoustic and scale feed directly into the dynamics of the play itself to make conflicts more violent, peaks and troughs more dramatic and the story a more epic drama. In the round, Miller’s play has become positively Greek in its proportions.

Our latest gift from the workshop is our swing, which was flown in by the technical team on Friday. Suspended from the grid of the theatre, this beautiful piece of Ellen Cairns’ set is every bit as fun as we’d imagined! For the last four weeks we have been rehearsing with benched seating, trying to remind ourselves always that this surface will actually bounce, swing and move. In fact it is being very well behaved and completes the stage picture beautifully.

We have slowly built an audience over the course of the week, with ushers, our photographer, theatre staff and the technical team all watching runs to help them plan for the next stages before our first preview on Wednesday night. Following Friday’s rehearsal we had a cueing meeting with our sound designer, Emma Laxton and lighting designer, Johanna Town to confirm the anticipated lighting and sound cues ahead of Monday’s first technical session.

This weekend our set is being constructed, the lighting rigged and speakers set, ready for us to start adding sound and light on Monday. The next entry will hopefully describe a very smooth technical process and confident first few previews. Book your tickets if you haven’t already, this show promises a knockout blow of Miller’s theatrical muscle!

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Cultural Context Exploration Day
Cultural Context Exploration Day

A FREE day-long workshop for theatre-makers, directors and playwrights to explore, discuss, question and interrogate the cultural lens through which we make work.

·  How do we bring our own experiences into our work and how do we open our views of the world to encompass its myriad variety?

·  As artists how do we explore rather than impose a received notion of different worlds, times, environments, cultures and social contexts through our work?

·  Can we only do this in a sympathetic way or can we be critical of other experiences away from our own?

This workshop will be led by Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company and director of the forthcoming production of ALL MY SONS at the Royal Exchange Theatre.  It will draw on his experience of bringing this production to our stage but may also draw on other texts and examples of theatre practice.
Participants will also attend the panel discussion - Race, Representation and the Repertoire - organised in association with Manchester University. 

The workshop is free and now SOLD OUT. If you have booked a place on this workshop day and can no longer attend, please email literary@royalexchange.co.uk as soon as possible.

The Front Room @ Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
Saturday 5 October: 11.00am - 6.00pm

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Please hover over for more info:
Delroy AtkinsonSimon CoombsDoña CrollAndrea DavyRoger  GriffithsKemi-Bo JacobsBethan Mary-JamesChiké OkonkwoDon WarringtonJNyah KundaMayowa Oshinyemi
Director Michael Buffong
Designer Ellen Cairns
Lighting Designer Johanna Town
Sound Designer Emma Laxton




The Theatre

Via Box Office on 0161 833 9833
or online

£10 - £41 (click here for more details)

Click here for full details

2 hours and 40 minutes, including 1 interval of 20 minutes

Wednesday 2 October, 11.00am


Thursday 17 October, following 7.30pm performance

Saturday 19 October, 3.30pm
Friday 25 October

Thursday 24 October, 7.30pm
Click here for more information about our accessible performances


Saturday 5 October, 1.00pm - 2.30pm in The Studio

A panel discussion with Director Michael Buffong alongside leading theatre professional and academics from the University of Manchester.

This event is FREE, but ticketed. Please contact Box Office on 0161 9833


Tuesday 8 (SOLD OUT) and Wednesday 16 October, 10am – 12 noon

Focussing on this production of ALL MY SONS, the Exchange Education team and members of the production staff, will guide you through the process of bringing this story to life.  Gain deeper insight into the key themes of the play through a mix of Q&As, talks and practical activities. Don't worry - we're keen not to spoil the enjoyment of the show so won't give away the ending!
Event will take place on the Royal Exchange Theatre's stage pre-show.

Tickets: £6 / £4. Book via Box Office on 0161 833 9833