ALL MY SONS
by Arthur Miller.
Open Air Theatre Inner Circle Regent’s Park NW1 4NU To 7 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.15pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 826 4242 (24hr).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 20 May.
Assertively tough production darkens into nocturnal intensity.
Like Timberlake Wertenbaker with Our Country’s Good, Arthur Miller’s title seems to imply one meaning, then socks you in the jaw when it crops up in the dialogue with a different significance. Particularly in Miller’s case, where that significance summarises the point of his post-war drama.
Just as everyone’s settling back into small-town comfort, wartime ghosts return (literally, in Timothy Sheader’s production, with silent accusation reinforcing what’s being argued throughout); there is such a thing as society beyond the bounds of family and property.
Sheader takes a tough line. The idea a garden set will sit cosily in Regent’s Park is dismissed by Lizzie Clachan’s set, which places the Keller lawn above their neighbours, above a serpentine tangle of dead tree-roots hanging over scorched brown earth.
Underlying tensions fit naturally, while Sheader removes surface jollity among the neighbours. Tilly Blackwood’s Sue Bayliss keeps her hostility under a transparently thin veil, ignoring Joe’s alleged treachery to business-partner and country but hating the idealistic son Chris who’s encouraging her doctor husband from lucrative practice to poorly-paid research.
Charles Aitken’s outspoken Chris stays smartly-dressed till the past spills-out, disturbing his clothing as well as his scrupulous conscience, while Sue’s sudden resumption of the veil of conviviality is comically frightful. And her husband Jim’s recall of his brief happiness undertaking medical research finally undermines the garish all-American family smiling from the billboard backing the stage.
The other side of the Kellers’ things seem happier, with Maddie Rice’s ever-smiling Lydia and Matt Cross practically busy as Frank – when he’s not casting horoscopes, placing happiness on the side of irrationality.
Amid these, Tom Mannion’s Joe seems almost neutral, never overplaying Miller’s hints of his limited intellect and only suggesting near the end the efficient factory boss, whose secret might have stayed safe with slightly different timing (the person who needs to hear is almost through the door).
It’s Brid Brennan’s Kate, composed and polite over a mass of seething nerves, fears and desperate hope, who becomes the central tragic figure in a vivid, if not definitive revival casting new light on several elements in Miller’s play.
Joe Keller: Tom Mannion.
Dr Jim Bayliss: Simon Wilson.
Frank Lubey: Matt Cross.
Sue Bayliss: Tilly Blackwood.
Lydia Lubey: Maddie Rice.
Chris Keller: Charles Aitken.
Bert: Ewan Harris/Charles Maddox/Johnny Peat.
Kate Keller: Brid Brennan.
Ann Deever: Amy Nuttall.
George Deever: Andy McKeane.
Director: Timothy Sheader.
Designer/Costume: Lizzie Clachan.
Lighting: Guy Hoare.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Composer: Nick Powell.
Dialect coach: Majella Hurley.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Associate director: Barbara Houseman.
Assistant director: Fiona Dunn.