I entered the ADC last night with a critical eye, curious to see what had been done to one of Arthur Miller’s major works – All My Sons. Miller was a playwright aiming to change the world, as he once said, moving the audience of Death of a Salesman’s first performance to astonished silence rather than applause. However, as the play began, and I got over the slightly wavering American accents, I realised I had no need to worry: All My Sons has been left in very capable hands.
Under the direction of Niall Wilson, this American classic came to life and caught the audience, keeping things simple, sharp and relying upon the strong casting.He did not show a need to produce a grand show of originality or modernism in an attempt to make his mark. He instead kept with what makes the play strike the emotions in the first place – its intimacy and the power behind its words, which can only be carried by maintaining brilliance within the acting and directing with force and vision. The staging was authentically American, with the slightly beaten-up backyard in which the action and interplay stays throughout, altering the lighting only to show the different times of day and maintaining a low prop flow. The only sounds above the voices of the actors were crickets and the harrowing intermission of the noise from a World War II aircraft in passing – haunting the plot as it haunts the mind of Kate Keller, played by Liane Grant, a performance that filled the stage with emotion.
The lack of distracting pomp in the staging enhanced what was truly excellent about the production: the acting. The play requires quality performances to accomodate the pressure of the dialogue, and in this the cast succeeded with flying colours, alternating between violent anger and shouts of fear with the silences that follow. Some stunning performances came from centre stage with Ben Kavanagh as Joe Keller and Will Attenborough as Chris, intimate and convincing from open to close and bringing the amateur performance to a whole new level. They combined the comic with the tragic to pull laughter from the audience, especially at the points where, like a true parent, Joe interrupts the scenes of affection between Chris Keller and Ann Deever (Charlotte Reid), bringing a human humour to this modern tragedy.
When members of the audience are in tears as they leave a theatre, you know something went right on the stage, and that’s exactly what happened at last night’s opening performance. All My Sons is, without a doubt, one of the must-sees of this term, for which I might even buy myself another ticket.