25 April 2019 (released)
28 April 2019
All my sons was Arthur Miller’s first Broadway hit in 1947 and unlike the lesser known American Clock (earlier this season at the Old Vic) it focuses on the tragedy of one Ohio family and the cracks in the American dream. There are many familiar faces in the cast led by Bill Pullman and Sally Field who both deliver unflinching performances with Colin Morgan (BBC’s Merlin) playing their son and Jenna Coleman (ITV’s Victoria) his fiancé. Millers capacity to hit the jugular with tragedies of the ‘common’ man is well known and Jeremy Herrin’s production feels all too relevant as Joe Keller puts family and business above all else, blind to the tragic consequences of his limited vision.
Set in a small, well off community in Ohio soon after the Second World War, designer Max Jones has delighted in creating the vision of a dolls-house perfect American home. As the show opens, images of war give way to an immaculate duck egg blue clapboard house with white picket fences and an abundance of greenery, which literally glides forward into view. From out of the horror of war comes a vision of domestic bliss and as we meet the residence and neighbours of the community, it’s hard not to wish you lived there too. But of course this is one of Arthur Miller’s great tragedies and it’s not long before the eye is drawn to a tree that’s crashed to the ground over night and soon we discover that it was planted to remember their son who died in the War.
Sally Field and Bill Pulman both bring huge warmth and psychological depth to Joe and Kate Keller. Kate fluctuates from an irresistibly generous spirited maternal figure, fussing and welcoming everyone around her to a woman wracked with anxiety and in desperate denial about her son who has been missing in action for three years. Joe has built a thriving business for his sons to inherit, but we soon discover his company was responsible for sending out defective cylinder heads that lead to the deaths of over a hundred soldiers – it is only at the very end he recognises his responsibility for the tragedy. Pulman’s characterisation resonates with a contemporary audience by connecting with a familiar middle class ‘blindness’ rather than focussing on the uneducated self-made man of the period who has lived through the great depression.
In the end the connection between private enterprise and public disaster cannot be ignored. As Arthur Miller wrote in ‘the truth, the first truth, probably, is that we are all connected, watching one another. Even the trees.’ There are many expected and unexpected ways in which Miller’s play continues to resonate today – I expect the Extinction Rebellion would agree.
Search & buy All My Sons tickets below.