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A Chat with All My Sons Director, Michael Buffong

By Zoe Grossman 

The American Dream might not be so dreamy after all... 

All My Sons, Arthur Miller's 1947 classic about the harsh realities of the American Dream is coming to Richmond Theatre at the end of this month. We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the show's director Michael Buffong. See what he has to say about directing, the Talawa Theatre Company and All My Sons.

How did you first get involved with directing?

I started out as an actor. I had a need to be much more involved in the process of telling the story. Not too long after that I was invited to be part of an Arts Council funded BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) directors course being held at Theatre Royal, Stratford East. This was a great experience for me, it made me realise I could be a director.

You've been directing the Talawa Theatre Company for three years now. How would you describe your experience thus far?

Being an Artistic Director has involved a steep learning curve. As well as learning what it takes to keep a company going, how to work with boards and stakeholders, it's also been surprising, as I find myself in a position to enable other emerging artists. We are currently working with new writers and directors and theatre makers both on and off stage.

What do you think is the main message audiences should take from seeing All My Sons, and specifically the Talawa Theatre Company production, as an all black cast?

There are many themes within All My Sons, one of the most overriding being our responsibility for each other. As an audience member watching this production of All My Sons, you come away with a sense of just how costly the American Dream can be. Audiences have told us that this production has brought home how the stakes seem to be much greater. And in respect of a Talawa Theatre production I think it's that we are probably much more alike than we realise.

What challenges have you faced in directing this production of an Arthur Miller classic?

All My Sons is a classic, so it comes with certain expectations.The question is can you live with those expectations or will you be ground down by the pressure to deliver? I've relished that challenge.

How is this story, based in 1940's Ohio, applicable to our lives today?

The themes within the play - family, honour, love, money, deception - are all issues we struggle with today.  The back drop of war also brings this play very much up to date.

What would you like the future of Talawa Theatre Company to look like, and how would you work to implement that change?

We are working very hard to bring new work, and new perspectives on classic work to new theatre audiences. As with many organisations we are doing so under huge financial restraints, but our aim is to continue working with our current partners and also seek out new and exciting co-producers. Talawa is also developing the next generation of Black theatre artists through varying projects including the inaugural Talawa Writers' Programme, Studio Firsts, and Talawa Firsts - a season of work-in-progress performances showcasing emerging talent.

All My Sons is playing at Richmond Theatre from 31 March - 4 April.