Home Cultural - Κριτική Καλών Τεχνών ALL MY SONS – REVIEW OF 2019 OLD VIC THEATRE PRODUCTION


ALL MY SONS by Miller, , Writer - Author Miller, Director - Jeremy Herrin, Set and Costume design - Max Jones, Lighting - Richard Howell, The Old Vic Theatre, London, 2019, Credit: Johan Persson

Did you see the London production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Old Vic Theatre in 2019? It ran from April 13 to June 8 and our chance of seeing it may be the equivalent of winning the Lotto Max. Major theatre and opera companies discovered that broadcasting their productions in movie theatres live or almost live can be profitable. That opened the door to the sale of DVDs and major cultural events became available to hoi polloi.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced those major cultural institutions to stream their productions to homes around the world free or for a nominal fee. And that is why we can see the 2019 production of All My Sons that would otherwise have been recollected by the few who saw it or remembered through reviews and photographs.

It is a production that was worth recording and is, of course is worth watching. It may not be the same as seeing it in the theatre but it could be considered like winning a free play on your Lotto Max investment.

The production under review was directed by Jeremy Herrin and it boasted star-power in Sally Field and Bill Pullman. Quite aside for their fame, both give stellar performances. Field is Kate Keller, the mother of Larry, a pilot killed in World War II whose death she refuses to accept. Three years after her son’s disappearance, she believes wholeheartedly and passionately that he will come back. Field evinces a mother’s devotion, a fierce and unchallengeable conviction in his survival and an unshakeable illusory belief that he is not dead.

Pullman as Joe Keller, the father, knows better but he has an enormous burden to bear. He manufactured the faulty airplane parts that were the direct cause of his son’s death.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 He was charged criminally but escaped conviction by blaming falsely his partner who was convicted and ended up in jail. With his gravelly voice and nervous tics Pullman as Joe tries to exude control and generosity but we know that he is criminally and morally guilty.                                                                                                                                   

The other main characters are Joe’s son Chris, a would-be idealist who is too weak to be an industrialist or an idealist and Ann Deever, the Kellers’ former neighbour. In Colin Morgan’s performance Chris is a man torn between the forces of a powerful father and a loving but deluded mother on one hand and the love that he bears for Ann (Jenna Coleman), his childhood neighbour and his dead brother’s love.

Ann has accepted that Larry is dead and has fallen in love with Chris. Kate cannot accept her as Chris’s beloved because she is waiting for Larry to return. Ann’s position is made worse by her belief that her father, Joe’s partner, is guilty and that Joe is innocent. A marvellous performance by Coleman.

All My Sons is a brilliantly structured and complex play that takes place in 1947, the beginning of the halcyon days of the American Republic and forces us to look at capitalist success, moral corruption, fraud and acceptance of responsibility. Joe Keller knew that the parts he manufactured were defective and he knew that they were shipped to the Air Force. Twenty-one pilots lost their lives. When he was charged, he managed to escape by pretending that he was ill on the day of the shipment. This irresponsible and corrupt shift of responsibility on his partner was successful but his partner’s son George (Oliver Johnstone) has become a lawyer and has started looking into his father’s conviction.

The set by Max Jones shows the backyard of the Kellers’ suburban home with the fallen apple tree. We meet their neighbours.  Dr Jim Bayliss (Sule Remi) and his wife Sue (Kayla Meikle) as well as Lydia (Bessie Carter) and her husband Frank (Gunnar Cauthery), nice decent people in a nice and decent neighbourhood. At least that is what it was before a war, capitalist greed, and moral corruption ruined it as one of their neighbours achieved the American dream.


All My Sons by Arthur Miller, shown at the Old Vic Theatre in 2019, is available for streaming at https://www.ntathome.com/

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