Over to Waterloo today for the fourth of five Arthur Miller plays showing in London this year, this time the family drama All My Sons.
A story of corruption and profiteering in wartime, we first meet Joe Keller (Bill Pullman) in his garden, with his neighbours Dr Bayliss (Sule Rimi) and Frank (Gunnar Cauthery). He’s an affable chap, pleasant enough, wealthy, with an average house.
Upstairs there’s a guest, Ann (Jenna Coleman, in her London stage debut after television success in Victoria). She was the girl next door and the sweetheart of the Keller family’s eldest son, lost in battle. Now she’s sought after by the other son, Chris (Colin Morgan), who has aspirations to move away and leave the family business.
The first half of this play is mostly scene-setting, with the wives of the neighbours chipping in, then we meet Kate Keller (the wonderful Sally Field), who lives each day in the vain hope that her lost son, Larry, will return. She even gets Frank to chart the horoscope of the day he died to prove it was “a favourable day”.
In the second half of the play, Ann’s brother George (Oliver Johnstone) visits, a coiled spring of nerves, hiding behind his father’s hat, fighting against his growing revulsion of the family who welcome him as a son, but who he blames for his family’s disgrace and his father’s incarceration.
Heading to raw revelations and family devastation, this play rips apart the pretence and bonhomie of years of neighbours living in close companionship and learning to be smart, not honest.
Jeremy Herrin directs, and Max Jones designs the set of house, picket fence, trees and lights, plus a projection of distortion which hints of the distress to come.
Field’s performance is the major draw – I felt Pullman lacked the business toughness behind Keller’s jovial exterior, and I couldn’t always make out his lines even from the front stalls. Morgan and Coleman are good, too, plus Kayla Meikle as Mrs Bayliss.
Jeremy Herrin directs, and Max Jones designs the set of house, picket fence, trees and lights, plus an opening projection of distortion which hints at the fracture and distress to come.
All My Sons continues at the Old Vic until the 8 June. Photo credits Johan Persson.