All My Sons
Paul Johnson | 12 Jun 2013 01:22am
In a time when this country is still a nation at war, a play about losing family and relatives will always resonate with an audience. Miller’s drama being set in America and not England makes it no less powerful, in fact it probably makes it more so, with the United States being involved in so many conflicts and having lost so many of its sons to war. This is a play of character development and intense internal drama and conflict. The war itself is never seen and the literal effects are never felt, but in Erith Playhouse’s production we feel how much damage a war does at home and overseas no matter how well intentioned it is. This is a lengthy and wordy play and one that requires deep concentration both from its audience and its cast as so little physically happens, it’s all told through the words and stories each of the characters has to tell. We see so much character development take place from this accomplished cast. John Hart’s portrayal of Keller was solid throughout and was one with such a journey to go on, with dealing with the loss of his son, having his past catch up with him and watching his family fall apart around him. Judith Brace as his wife made for an interesting pairing and we see the sense of her own self denial as to what has gone on. Her revelation that if she accepts the loss of her son as fact means she has to accept further reaching and more damaging facts from their past is a moment of great poignancy and the plot hinges off of that. All of the developments in the second half of the play hang in the balance. We as the audience reach the conclusions at the same time, if not before the characters and so for us the cast’s journey becomes fascinating for us to watch. Do they sit by and ignore the past and ignore the truth for the sake of keeping their family together or do they do the right thing, accept the past, accept the truth and with it watch their family crumble? The pairing of Michael Bate and Helen Rowe as the youngest son Chris and as Ann Deever, the former love interest of the missing in action older son, makes for at times tender viewing and we are rooting for the pair of them. We sympathise with the mother’s concern over Chris and Ann being together given Ann’s past with his older brother, but we are with them, primarily because of the sense of right they exude. Their performances are engaging and Rowe’s moments of trying to convince the family of the truth and breaking the news as best she can to ensure the right course of action is taken makes for a heartbreaking set of scenes. Gareth Hunt as Ann’s brother, George really picks up the pace of the show and really cranks the level of drama up. The journey to the truth escalates and brings all the problems home sooner than the family were ready for. The intensity of his performance felt so genuine and it is a pity the character is in the play for such a short amount of time. The main thrust of the action is supported ably by the Keller and the Deever’s local friends who drop by. They are witnesses to the destruction of this family and can do nothing to prevent it. They can only be there to support their friends and be bystanders. The energy of Lucas Valvona, Jenny McKiernan and Danny Watts as neighbours Frank and Lydia Lubey and local boy Bert helped to lift the energy of the piece which at times felt a little unnecessarily slow. Alexander Macdonald and Kelly Randall as Dr. Jim Bayliss and his wife Sue had an almost Greek Choral effect. They would be there to support and drive the action when needed, linking all the threads and reminding us of the world outside of the Keller family. At times the acting of the company could have been reined back a bit; let the words tell the story, keep the performances smaller to let the emotion carry further, but for the most part, the performances and indeed the accents were uniformly solid. The audience could see the actors giving their all, which was rewarding for us, but their jobs could have been made easier by holding them back a little. The set deserves a special mention of its own and in fact, the cast were fully aware of the impact of the set as the audience gave its appearance as the tabs opened, a round of applause. Being presented with a full scale replica of the rear of a house with its gardens was beautiful and made for a setting that was both lovely to look at and as the show progressed became an interesting irony. So many people hurting and broken in a setting that was lush and verdant; so much loss in a place so full of life. All in all, well done to all concerned for tackling such a difficult period piece that is still so relevant and up to date and for still making the audience feel the significance of the piece, even after all this time. This piece is about the son of the Kellers, but is about any and indeed as the title says, all our sons. Erith Playhouse are in rehearsals for their next production, the Rogers and Hammerstein musical ‘Oklahoma’ which runs from the 1st to the 6th of July and their next season looks equally as interesting and entertaining as their current one.
- : admin
- : 03/06/2013