All My Sons at the Richmond Theatre – Review

On Saturday 4th April, a friend and I went to see Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Richmond Theatre. It is currently on tour (until 25th April), and is a Talawa Theatre Company production – the Talawa Theatre Company is a UK-based black company, Talawa meaning ‘small but mighty’ in Jamaican patois. All My Sons was Arthur Miller’s first success, and follows a family, the Kellers, almost torn apart from the Second World War. One of their two sons was reported missing three years ago, and the patriarch of the family, Joe Keller, was exonerated after having been jailed for providing the military with faulty airplane parts, which caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots. However the blame was placed firmly on Joe’s partner, and the family is as rich and successful as ever, despite the fact that Joe’s wife Kate still firmly believes her son Larry is alive. When their idealistic surviving son Chris invites Larry’s former sweetheart Annie to stay, events are put in motion that might just tear the resilient family apart after all. The play is a critical look at those who made their fortune supplying the military during the Second World War, and is a study of The American Dream and how far people will go to achieve it, and maintain it. The set looked like the back porch and garden of a beautiful doll’s house, with dappled green to represent trees everywhere, and foliage hanging from the ceiling. My friend commented that it all looked a bit fake, but I wondered if that was intentional. The play is after all about a man presenting himself as charming, friendly and unthreatening, while many can see that his easy charm is artificial. My friend also noted at first how lovely all of the greenery was, before changing her mind halfway through the first act because the bright green was starting to hurt her eyes. The acting was, over all, very good, with the cast managing to just about keep our attention through the slower-moving parts of the play (of which there are many). However, at times, I did find my attention wandering. Where the cast really came into its own was during the more tense and dramatic moments in the play, providing a lovely contrast to their former cheeriness. Dona Croll, who played Kate Keller deserves a special mention for her wonderful ability to fully capture the motherly, delusional, sometimes heavily passive-aggressive Kate. Kemi-Bo Jacobs, who played Annie, had a rather strange and distracting tone to her voice perhaps brought on by the adoption of an American accent, and was prone to using jerky hand movements when making a point, which was also distracting and rather bizarre. However, the cast worked together wonderfully to subtly show the way that their fragile interpretations of the American dream was slowly crumbling, and the shocking climax of the play was built up to masterfully. ***1/2 (Three and a half stars)