ALL MY SONS
Loft Theatre, Leamington, until February 18
Reviewer: Peter McGarry
Rain teems down, thunder cracks, lightning flashes. A lone figure cries out in anguish.
This portentous and brilliantly conceived opening heralds a theatrical experience of truly intense proportions. The play is Arthur Miller’s earliest triumph. The production – 70 years on – is a triumph for the Loft. It pinpoints the frailties of human emotions through issues which remain remarkably relevant today.
Having set the scene in the back yard of an Ohio family home, Gus MacDonald’s production allows the storm clouds of conflict, passion and betrayal to develop with grim relentlessness. The mood is achieved carefully and with subtlety, enabling the writer’s tight dialogue to be expressed with maximum force and no distraction.
It is wisely left to a string of fine performances against the background of Richard Moore’s evocative set to eke out the fearsome disintegration of the family. This is triggered by revelations of businessman Joe Keller’s culpability in the deaths of servicemen through faulty aircraft design.
From disbelief to disillusion, Joe’s son, through a superb performance by Jimmy Proctor, is seen to fall apart in the face of ultimately lost ideals and shattered loyalties. His good nature and optimism are touchingly realised in his feelings for his dead brother’s girlfriend – played with a stylish mix of sweetness and strength by Julie-Ann Randell – before the axe falls.
Miller’s play further twists the knife as Joe’s wife constantly refuses to accept the wartime death of her other son. In another stunning portrayal by Mary MacDonald, she is an outwardly bright but innately tragic figure inhabiting a fantasy world.
Joe, of course, is the catalyst for the fall and the eventual victim of devastating pressures. His gradual descent is beautifully realised by Tom O’Connor as he struggles to retain dignity in the face of overwhelming guilt. And there is some eye-catchingly good work from George Heynes as the angst-ridden son of Joe’s betrayed partner.
The cause of political upheaval in its day by flouting the American dream, the play still stands as a monument to the best of drama. As does this version which is a credit to local theatre.