All My Sons: Arthur Miller
Rose Theatre, Kingston to 19 November
Runs 2h 10m with interval
Review: Tom Aitken 29 10 16
Expert ensemble reveals all the details of this remarkable play.
Arthur Miller began writing All My Sons in 1941 but did not finish it until 1947, when it established his career as a playwright and won him his first Tony Award.
The action takes place within 24 hours in the capacious back yard of the Keller home in the outskirts of an American town. As you might guess from this statement, there are elements of classical tragedy in what we see, although Miller is in no way in thrall to them.
Much of the play is funny, although the humour is derived from human weakness and inability to cope serenely with moral and social infringements of various sorts.
These problems have been thrust into everybody’s mind by the arrangement of a family and friends get together for a slap up dinner. Clearly the intention is to try to restore the position as it had been before the war, and various afflictions that it brought upon the Keller family and friends.
One of these involves a mess that the patriarch, Frank Lubey has brought upon himself. He is doing his best not to fall to pieces, but he is not a well-educated man and some moral issues are apparently just a little outside his mental and moral grasp. He apparently allowed some cracked cylinder heads made in his factory to be passed fit for use. Men died as a result.
His defence is a mixture of the need for chancy decisions in some circumstances, the fact that he had a large wage bill to meet and one or two other similarly pertinent but blinkered assumptions.
He and his wife Kate have barely spoken about this or about the loss suffered by a young doctor who is one of their circle. His fiancé died some time ago and Kate fears that he may have his eye on another young woman who has been invited to the get together. She sets out to nip any such development in the bud.
Miller has very effectively plotted events in these and other confrontations arising from the approach of the gathering.
You will be kept laughing but also be confronted with the clashes between the untidiness of real life and moral attitudes dating back, I suppose to the Pilgrim Fathers.
The play is a remarkable achievement and it is well-served by Michael Rudman’s production, which keeps things moving along without ever skating over any of the issues raised by the script. As for the actors (and Rudman should also be given credit for his expert management of a large cast), there is no weak link. It was a great pleasure to watch people from several generations and backgrounds working together with such skill, understanding and energy.
A play that explores the psychological complexities of what in real life we would probably think of as fairly ordinary people, and makes the process utterly engaging, is well worth two hours and twenty minutes of any theatre-goer’s time.
Lydia Lubie: Grace Carter
Kate Keller: Penny Downey
George Deever: Edward Harrison
Joe Keller: David Horovitch
Frank Lubey: William Meredith
Sue Bayliss: Alison Pargeter
Jim Bayliss: David Partridge
Chris Keller: Alex Waldmann
Ann Deever: Francesca ZoutwellBert: Samson Maracino, Sam Stewart
Director: Michael Rudman
Designer: Michael Taylor
Lighting Designer: David Howe
Sound Designer: Martin Hodgson