Review: All My Sons, by Arthur Miller, New Wolsey Theatre, co-production with Talawa theatre company, until February 21.
- Credit: Archant
The New Wolsey Theatre got it’s spring season off to a dazzling start with a tightly-paced, wonderfully acted, precisely directed revival of Arthur Miller’s first great play All My Sons.
This 1947 drama, performed in what would have been Miller’s centenary year, kept audiences on the edge of their seats, and although clearly set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, had clear resonances with contemporary society and the way that business makes money out of warfare.
Director Michael Buffong skilfully lulls the audience into a false sense of security as the play opens in a small rural town not too far from New York. It starts as a family reunion and a possible wedding as the son of a successful factory owner has brought his fiancé home to propose to her.
But, as the play unfolds, the audience slowly become aware of dark secrets lurking in the family’s past. It seems that the mother refuses to accept that her eldest son has died in the war and it appears that the father has been jailed in the past for murder. He was later released after he managed to clear his name but many in the neighbourhood still believe he is guilty.
Like all Arthur Miller plays, this is a story of family and relationships. A story of how the family fits in with society. This family presents a happy, relaxed, friendly face to the world but underneath tensions simmer.
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The casting of the play is spot on and there’s real strength to all the performances. Everyone is very believable. Joe (Ray Shell), the patriarch is jovial and always has a twinkle in his eye while his wife Kate (Dona Croll), despite her delusions, has a real warmth to her. These are people you enjoy spending time with. Chris (Leemore Marrett Jr) is earnest, desperate to break away from his father’s shadow, but again an engaging person. But, the standout performance of the evening is provided by Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Chris’ fiancé Ann, She creates a character filled with charm, strength and then believable uncertainty following the revelations which gives the situation an added sense of depth and reality.
The action takes place on the front porch and the yard of the family house which brings the world right to their door. This is a play which reinforces the old adage that no man is an island. This is a play about a friendly, industrious family but sometimes nice people make mistakes and you can only run from your past for so long.
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This brilliantly staged, fantastically moving play rejoiced in a well-deserved standing ovation from a full house. A brilliant start to the spring season.