All My Sons - Review

Arthur Miller’s play that questions the ethics of war profiteering has been described as an Ibsenian drama. It also bears the inevitability of a Greek tragedy with a family doomed to be torn apart.

Successful business man, Joe Keller, knowingly allows defective aircraft parts to be supplied during World War II resulting in 21 dead pilots. Released through lack of evidence he lets his partner take the blame and receive a prison sentence. A guilty secret that Kate, his wife, is having to live with. The play is set some three years later when the truth begins to unravel with tragic consequences.

Also overhanging the Keller household is the loss of son, Larry, a war pilot missing in action. His absence has an effect in the play through his mother's insistence that he is still alive, despite Joe and the other son, Chris, believing the contrary. It also overshadows Chris’s love for Larry’s childhood sweetheart, Anne, the daughter of the imprisoned partner.

Miller’s emotionally gut wrenching and powerful writing provides actors with roles that require performances to match and in James Newton’s spell-binding production they exceeded expectation. As well as giving sensitive direction Newton managed to inspire his entire cast to achieve perfection. Based on the company’s previous Miller productions the anticipation was of good acting but what was delivered reached beyond the level of excellence.

Tim Blissett effortlessly slipped into the role of Keller as though it was tailor made – he captured all the bluff heartiness and smugness of the self made man as well as the delusion created by the self-centred justification of his action. As his wife, Kate, Lyn Fernee, gave what was probably the best performance I have seen from her. She attained a glorious balance of neurotic helplessness and steely resolve. Her final scene was heart wrenching.

Equally magnificent were Mathew Lawson and Emily Gallichan. As Chris, Lawson gave us a man truly desperate to break free from his brother’s suffocating shadow. He fairly shone with idolization of his father and one felt for his devastation when he found out the truth about what Joe had done. His anger was beautifully tempered with his moments of loving gentleness with Anne. Gallichan’s Anne was delightfully charming and brought a refreshing uplift to the stifling tension within the Keller home.

Daryl Buckley gave a strong performance as George, Anne’s brother, whose arrival late in the play is the catalyst that produced a magnificent, turbulent last act – the emotion discharged by the actors was almost suffocating.

Four other actors completed a fine cast by providing contrasting cameos. Kirsty Elmer was able to lighten the drama with the humour she obtained from playing the sexually predatory and money obsessed wife of the local doctor – a role naturalistically underplayed with spot on sensitivity by Alistair Lock. Humour also came from Moog Gravett as a well meaning but geeky neighbour with his astrological charts whilst Louise Preecy, as his wife, sweetly turned matronly homeliness to girlish flutter when George, a childhood sweetheart arrives.

Barrie Jerram
8 May 2011