The Theatreguide.London Review
All My Sons
Like much of his work,
Arthur Miller's play is a solid, occasionally stolid drama whose
earnestness carries it over the occasional rough patch. And this is a
solid, occasionally stolid production whose earnestness almost
carries it over the frequent rough patches.
There is no reason for
to be coy about spoiler alerts. This is the kind of play in which
everything is telegraphed long in advance, because the interest is
not in what will happen or what did happen in the past, but in how
everyone will react when what has been obvious to us finally comes
During the Second World
War a manufacturer allowed some
defective airplane parts to go out, and several pilots were killed as
a result. He managed to pin the blame on his partner, but remains
under a cloud of suspicion. Meanwhile, the man's own son was missing
in action, and his wife refuses to believe he is dead.
The play's two
plot lines come together when the living second son wants to marry
his brother's old girlfriend, daughter of the disgraced partner. The
play's message, encapsulated in the title, is that the manufacturer
should have had a larger sense of responsibility than merely to his
Bill Pullman, an
American actor who has built a career on
being not-quite-a-leading-man, begins slowly but eventually finds
some of the father's humanity through a character-actor route. But
perhaps deliberately, he gives a self-effacing supporting actor's
performance, and he and director Jeremy Herrin never plumb the depths
of the man's passion, guilt, anger and pain.
Joe Keller remains a
having a little crisis, when Miller was striving for some modern
equivalent of high tragedy in an ordinary life.
This production is
being marketed largely on the name of Sally Field as the mother
crumbling under the weight of multiple denials. But even more than
Bill Pullman the actress seems unable to find the character's depth
of emotion and pain.
In what is surely a
directorial mistake, the
performer in her seventies plays a character in her sixties as if she
were in her nineties, the quivering voice and cardigan-shrouded
hunched body leaning too much toward generic Panto-level Little Old
The younger generation
are stronger. Colin Morgan convincingly
captures the living son's emotional confusion as family secrets force
themselves on him and he must acknowledge that he has always
half-known them but been in almost as much denial as his mother.
Jenna Coleman makes the girl a very modern and attractive figure who,
without being cold or unemotional, knows what she wants and brooks no
interference in getting it.
Aside from the limits of
some of the
characterisations – the secondary roles, admittedly all
underwritten by Miller, never take shape – director Jeremy Herrin
has difficulty placing people and moving them around the stage.
Though Max Jones' set is
not cluttered, actors repeatedly find
themselves sidling uncomfortably around, behind or between things
when simpler routes were available.
And see how clumsily he
Bill Pullman forward to turn his back on the others and address the
audience directly with the moral-of-the-story line containing the
This production doesn't get in the way of the play too much. But it doesn't plumb the moral depth and emotional power other productions have found in it.
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