ARTHUR Miller’s plays have always been slow-burn affairs.
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Take his 1947 breakthrough work All My Sons, for example. Set just after the Second World War, it documents how far one man is prepared to go in order to fulfil and maintain the American Dream.
Here, 60-year-old Joe Keller (Paul Shelley) allows his business partner to take the fall for literally covering the cracks in dodgy aircraft motors; parts that will ultimately ‘down’ and kill 21 American pilots.
Sadly for Joe, the truth will eventually reach from the airfields of China to his quiet family home in US suburbia.
To get to the meat of all this means having to endure a routine first half. Still, it allows full exploration all the characters, so when the second instalment does comes around, the payoff is riveting theatre at its finest.
Not convinced? Try asking the students in the audience who, so bored by what was put in front of them, they talked all the way through the first act. Come Act Two, however, they perfectly reflected Miller’s own experience of watching an audience’s reaction to the play’s unwinding - silent, gasping appropriately, and totally transfixed. Even 67 years after it was written, the timelessness of Arthur Miller’s work still has an impact.
Paul Shelley dominates as the troubled head of the family, while Robert Jack (playing Joe’s cowardly, idealistic son, Chris) delivers a convincing performance of a man who switches from idolising his father to loathing him. The Bill’s Trudie Goodwin, meanwhile, underpins the whole thing as matriarch, Kate. Maintaining a near constant state of hysteria throughout, her character’s repressed feelings of guilt capable of exploding at any given moment.
Production-wise, the porch set is something of a character in itself - the lighting always pitched to suit the mood perfectly. T
Until Sat 26