running until 19 November
My last visit to the Rose Theatre was for the English language premiere of Good Canary with fresh young talent, complete with digital projections. All My Sons couldn’t be more different, but on entering the auditorium it is strangely refreshing to be greeted with a lovely, sprawling, traditional set. Michael Taylor’s design is a beautiful rendering of a classic American family home: veranda, porch, white picket fence, the works. It’s the essence of the American dream – just waiting for trauma and tragedy to come pouring out through the cracks, as we know they inevitably will.
Michael Rudman’s production take its time, quietly introducing us to the family relationships then gently exposing the distrust, the anguish and the guilt underneath the apparent calm. When the big reveals come, they too are howls of anguish disguised in a whisper. At times it risks feeling under-powered, but there is intelligent subtlety in the performances that shows you don’t have to shout to make an impact.
David Horovitch gives a stand-out performance as Joe, the patriarch who will do anything for his family – with awful effects that he discovers much too late to save his eldest son and his own conscience. Horovitch’s performance gradually paints a picture of an amiable family man with many overlapping layers of fierce loyalty, guilt and denial. Each layer is gradually unpeeled, giving us a complex portrait of a man who seems so far buried in his façade that his guilt almost seems a surprise to himself when it is uncovered. Opposite him, Penny Downie’s Kate is erratic, swaying from smiles to desperate anger; she clings to the memory of her eldest son Larry, refusing to believe he is gone forever, raging against the world for tearing him away and against anyone who dares suggest he won’t come back. Complicating the issue is younger son Chris, intent on proposing to Larry’s former fiancée Ann and therefore, in the eyes of Kate, signing his brother’s death certificate.
Francesca Zoutewelle as Ann is a breath of fresh air when she arrives in the scene, bringing a flash of New York glamour to this Midwest neighbourhood. She plunges most of the community back down memory lane as they recall happier days gone by, while Chris pushes against the past, eager to forge ahead with a bright new future. As Chris, Alex Waldmann gives a solid performance but doesn’t fully engage with the potential of the role: the big moments when the revelations come spilling out don’t carry the full weight of the consequences, and the climaxes of both Act II and Act III, for the all the subtlety of the performances, need to carry greater shock value. If you’re a first-timer, you might miss the gravity of some of the lines in the way they’re currently delivered.
Sitting in the rear stalls under the circle overhang, the acoustics mean that not every word of the dialogue gets through. However, it was a joy to rediscover Arthur Miller’s meaty script with its wonderful, captivating plot. It’s a pleasure to see this show back on the London stage.
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