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All My Sons – Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | Review

Entirely set in the front yard of Joe Keller’s (David Hounslow) house, there are no sweeping scene changes or stage revolves in this production – nobody even bothers moving the chairs around. All My Sons is a popular play, with productions in the last few years on Broadway, the Old Vic, Nottingham Playhouse, the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, and on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, amongst others. As the evening progresses it becomes easy to see why – plunging headfirst into the middle of a narrative, characters and events are revealed piece by piece. It’s nuanced and complicated (but not so ridiculously complex that one can’t follow what’s going on), and it is genuinely intriguing, in the first half as the audience discovers the Keller family and their neighbours, and in the second as conflict and dramatic tension go into overdrive.

L-R Nathan Ives-Moiba, Kibong Tanji, David Hounslow. Credit Mark Sepple.jpg
L-R Nathan Ives-Moiba, Kibong Tanji, David Hounslow. Credit Mark Sepple.jpg

To the local community, it would appear Joe has served his time in prison, and has sort of redeemed himself by being a good and amiable person, friendly with everyone he encounters. His business partner, Steve Deever, is still serving time for the same offence (namely, shipping faulty manufactured goods that directly contributed to the deaths of twenty-one military personnel), and is therefore, rightly or wrongly, not considered by society at large to have anywhere near the same social standing as Joe. And yet Joe still chides Steve’s daughter Ann (KIbong Tanji) for leaving the neighbourhood to live and work in New York!

Joe’s son Chris (Oliver Hembrough) wants to marry Ann, though Joe’s wife Kate (Eve Matheson) has her reasons for objecting strongly. Things become all the more heated with the arrival of Ann’s sister George (Nathan Ives-Moiba) from out of town, who by modern standards behaves misogynistically towards Ann – the kind of brother who acts as though he is her father. More and more details emerge, and a lot of emotions pour forth, though the production just about holds back from veering into melodrama.

Without giving too much away, the play grapples with Joe’s train of thoughts, in which the pursuit of individual goals has a greater pull than the level of responsibility to the wider world to do the ‘right’ thing. Or, more specifically, what if pursuing the morally right course of action would have resulted in Joe’s business going under? Hounslow’s Joe is bombastic, energetic and is very much the sort of person one would like to be around when socialising at the pub. Kate is hardly the polar opposite, extending warm hospitality far more often than not, and there’s a sturdy confidence in her shattered only by blunt truth. That she is so headstrong makes Joe’s appeals for calm impactful.

The lighting (Stephen Pemble) is extraordinary on the Hornchurch stage, portraying a sunny day in some scenes just as well as the middle of the night in another. Things do get physical in this production – on my way home after a Saturday night performance, a small fight broke out outside a local pub, and I thought to myself that what went on there wasn’t far removed from what occurred on stage earlier that evening. That’s the thing about this show: there’s so much that continues to be relevant, even if no attempt is made here to update it from its 1940s setting.

Okay, there’s the occasional wobbly American accent (I’ve heard much, much worse), and some of the comings and goings of various characters seem too neatly timed. In the end, however, it’s a full-length play that held my attention throughout. Performed with passion and conviction, a committed cast provide intense and compelling performances.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s 1947 and successful ‎businessman Joe Keller and his wife Kate are living the American dream in their idyllic suburban neighbourhood. Summer wedding plans are afoot for their son and his fiancée. Shadows of the war are slowly fading. But nothing‎ lasts forever. And a familiar visitor arrives to unbury secrets from the past, which will tear their lives apart…

CAST
Jim – David Bonnick Jr.
Chris – Oliver Hembrough
Joe – David Hounslow
George – Nathan Ives-Moiba
Sue – Natasha Lewis
Kate – Eve Matheson
Lydia & Bert – Tilly-Mae Millbrook
Frank – Graeme Rooney
Ann – Kibong Tanji

CREATIVE TEAM
Director Douglas Rintoul
Designer Amy Jane Cook
Lighting Designer Stephen Pemble
Sound Designer Helen Atkinson
Accent coach Joel Trill
Intimacy & Fight Director Haruka Kuroda
Sound Associate Michael Bennett
Costume Supervisor Nicola Thomas
Assistant Director Danielle Kassaraté RTYDS Assistant Director at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch through the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme
Executive Producer Mathew Russell

LISTINGS
All My Sons
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Billet Lane, Hornchurch. RM11 1QT
Dates: 10 February – 5 March 2022
www.queens-theatre.co.uk

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