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All My Sons by Arthur Miller at the Mary Wallace Theatre | Review

All My Sons
All My Sons

Nearly fifteen years after his death Arthur Miller is everywhere with five plays running in the West End and more in the pipeline. Widely regarded as one of the great American playwrights, if not the greatest, Miller excels in painting a forensically detailed portrait of people under pressure, often of their own making and the 1947 play All My Sons, the study of a family burdened by the past and striving for better futures, is one of his best.

Set in the back yard of the Keller home in the outskirts of an American town, the events of All My Sons take place in August, a few years after the end of the Second World War. Larry Keller, a young US Air Force pilot, remains missing in action. His mother, Kate, says she believes he will return but, for some of those that knew him best, it feels like the right time to move on. While it has a cleverly constructed plot, any production of All My Sons rests on two central performances: as Larry’s mother, Dorothy Duffy is a perfectly balanced and wholly convincing study of maternal love and emotional restraint; as Larry’s father, Joe, Simon Bickerstaffe is absolutely compelling, whether joshing good-naturedly with the neighbours or attempting to justify himself and his actions. It is a tribute to these actors’ performance as the self-deceiving Kellers that Larry is very much an active presence throughout the production.

Kate and Joe’s surviving son Chris is played by an outstanding Jack Lumb, and there are well-judged cameos from Claire Driver and Ben Willows and especially young Wilhelmina Stringer whose brief ‘policeman’ scene with Bickerstaffe is a particularly touching moment in the production. As the woman loved by both the Keller boys, Sarah Imran is good but her reactions are sometimes overdone and draw focus, while John Mortley’s performance is a little undermined by his accent. A word too for the period costuming and the simple but dramatic set which makes a very effective backdrop for the Kellers’ day of reckoning.

Notwithstanding an unnecessary addition to Miller’s script at the opening, and give or take a few mis-located effects, director Mair Graham propels the production through its twenty-four hours’ duration, leavening the inexorable unravelling of the truth by amplifying the comic counterpoise of the Kellers’ neighbours, especially Lydia and Frank Lubey – nicely played by Heloise Plumley and an exuberant Emilio Cavaciuti.

As the director says in the programme it is astonishing to realise that Miller’s play is 75 years old. On the strength of this moving production, it will continue to have something to say for many years to come.

4 stars

Review by Louis Mazzini

A true classic and one of the most celebrated American plays of the twentieth century. An emotionally powerful work set just after the Second World War where the action is centred on the time bomb of a guilty secret that has the potential to rip a grieving family apart.

ALL MY SONS
by Arthur Miller
directed by Mair Graham
Booking to 30th March 2019

The Mary Wallace Theatre
The Embankment,
Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 3DU

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