Thursday, 15 October 2009

All My Sons - The Curve Theatre, Leicester

All My Sons
Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Walter Meierjohann
Reviewer: David Noble

As the curtain rose on a scene that could have been the subject of a Hopper painting, one knew what was to come. The American artist famous for delving into the depression and loneliness behind the idyllic veneer of post-war life, must have shared ideas with Arthur Miller, for All My Sons was the epitome of these problems faced by one family in the aftermath of the Second World War. Written in an era when any remote anti-capitalist feeling was highly resented, it is astonishing to think that such a politically charged and morally ambiguous text could be published in 1947. Miller presents his ideas on the deceit of capitalism, and indeed the pursuit of wealth before life, through stark human emotion and raw angst.

The main challenge for director Walter Meierjohann was to bring this piece, which one would think so reliant on the mood of the time, to a modern audience. Here he succeeded spectacularly.

The story centres on a mother’s refusal to admit the death of her son, who had been missing since the war. This is a denial which becomes somewhat insurmountable when her other son wishes to marry his brother’s sweetheart. It also focuses on an unresolved imbroglio several years prior, whereby, due to greed faulty engines are sent to the war effort, resulting in the death of twenty-one pilots. The action that proceeds is expertly portrayed by Meierjohann, who blurs the line between right and wrong with delightful subtlety. All characters are likeable, yet none of them are innocent. It is this basic ambiguity that the director captures magnificently.

Perhaps it is also the modern climate that allows one to relate so closely to the issues discussed? In a time where capitalism is perceived to have failed us, and when we are fighting a seemingly endless war, parallels have to be drawn between the two periods. It is little wonder that All My Sons has been revived in a time of economic crisis.

On a technical note, the afore-mentioned set (created by Steffi Wurster) was absolutely stunning. The bold and vivid colours utilised allowed the frailty of the characters to be brutally exposed amidst the unerring opacity. Likewise, Mike Gunning’s lighting was relentless in its intensity, excellently representing the exposure of the widespread dishonesty.

The acting was on the whole exemplary, barring a few accentual slips, and the real achievement of the relatively small cast was to give the impression that one was sitting in the back garden with them. Personally, the stand-out performance was delivered by Diana Kent, who thrived in the complex role of mother Kate Keller. She juggled consummately the imbalanced nature of her character, and her gradual disintegration into despair was a joy to behold.

Quite frankly, All My Sons was exceptional. It gave me new perspective on issues ranging from patriotism to the importance of family, and the climax was both unexpected and deeply moving. A truly powerful piece, it is a rare example of a perfect harmony between a brilliant script and seamless direction, which is also culturally relevant. A clear highlight of the theatrical year, All My Sons must be seen!

runs until Sat 14th Nov
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