An accomplished production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons arrived in Cambridge last night, tackling questions of family, responsibility and how our past actions affect the future of those we love.
It’s America, 1947, and the Keller family are slowly emerging from the tragedy of losing their son during the Second World War. Though her husband Joe and remaining son, Chris, have moved on, Kate Keller clings to the hope that her beloved son Larry is still alive and will one day come home to them.
The story opens one fresh summer morning, following a storm which has snapped Larry’s memorial tree portentously in two. After Moon on a Rainbow Shawl’s movie-like staging, I was expecting another magnificent set from theatre company Talawa and wasn’t disappointed. The beautiful colonial house in its leafy, dappled setting, puts us in no doubt as to the level of comfort Joe’s wartime industry has secured the family and provides a paradoxically tranquil setting for the drama which unfolds.
Newly arrived is former neighbour Annie, Larry’s sweetheart, who has since been exchanging letters with Chris. But the appearance of her own embittered brother disturbs old questions regarding a batch of faulty machinery linked to Joe and his then-business partner (and Annie’s father), now serving a sentence in jail.
A cast of black British actors take on this all-American classic, with Dona Croll as Kate and Ray Shell as Joe. Croll (Casualty, EastEnders, Silent Witness) brings feeling and complexity to the role of Kate, wistful for the past and still mothering all those around her in a bid, we suspect, to keep underlying fears at bay. And Ray Shell skillfully captures both Joe’s jovial bonhomie and the darker side which emerges in act two, as the truth of who’s to blame for the wartime disaster which killed 21 pilots emerges.
A gripping family drama which keeps you guessing, All My Sons runs at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday 28 February. Tickets from £15.