The Old Vic, London – until 8 June 2019
My first written review – for a student newspaper – was All My Sons, at the Octagon Theatre Bolton. Forty-five years, and 6,000 seats in the stalls later, we have come full circle and it was with pleasure and a tiny bit of pride I went to see it again, in the wonderful Old Vic.
In the interval, all you hear is “it’s like …” – with its hyper-realistic set, patchy lawn and wicker tray of drinks it’s like an Ayckbourn, the moustachioed know-all neighbour is like Ned Flanders, and with their tidy home, kind hospitality and general niceness masking a guilty secret the Kellers could be like any family – including yours.
The hallmark of a ‘great play’ is its universality, and historically Arthur Miller’s 1947 All My Sons is a ‘great play’ but it’s debatable whether, in trying to adhere that greatness to contemporary realities, Jeremy Herrin’s is a great production. There may be more to hope for in Marianne Elliott’s BAME-cast Death of a Salesman, soon to open across the street at the Young Vic.
Based on a Sally Field has not had more stage time in her illustrious TV and movie career, because her portrayal of Kate Keller, a frail and homely matriarch with a controlling core of carbon steel is beyond fine.
Bill Pullman is a winner too, as Joe Keller, conveniently swerving the fact his business partner took the rap, and practising charm on all the neighbourhood with an effortlessly real performance to match Field’s. It’s a rare treat to see Jenna Coleman (Victoria) on stage but she’s fractionally too pert for the girl who shifts affections from the dead pilot to his younger brother.
When whistleblowers at the Boeing plant are alleging defective manufacturing on its 787 production line, the plot of All My Sons is suddenly globally relevant. But it’s also a pure slice of 1940s Americana.
until 8 June.