Brighton Fringe 2011
Miller explores themes of social versus corporate responsibility interwoven within a family drama that centres on the relationship between a father and his son in post war America.
I’d be happy for someone to just stand and read an Arthur Miller play to me. As long as it was in English, I’d still be fascinated by the taut relationships, the dilemmas, the struggles of post-war American life – I wouldn’t even care about the accents, the language would take care of itself.
So when I signed up to see New Venture Theatre’s production of ‘All My Sons’ I was content just to sit back and enjoy the ride.
However, by the end of the opening scenes, I realised that I was in for so much more of a treat. And by the final scene, I honestly felt moved to tears – not only by the words, the story and the characters’ journeys, but by this talented company’s emotional commitment that so skilfully brought us to the edge of high drama without letting it spiral into melodrama.
The cast was generally very strong. Tim Blissett steers the affable head of the household, Joe Keller with great dexterity, never allowing us to anticipate the cowardly liar that his mask would later reveal. (Sorry to give anything away, but it is Miller after all!) The relationship with his son, Chris – confidently played by Matthew Lawson, was set up adeptly by both actors as the two battle with their individual demons that so destabilise their love for each other.
There was a great ensemble feel about the piece (and a lovely ‘ah’ factor from the very talented Malachy Charleton), but for me, the outstanding performance came from Emily Gallichan. Playing Anne Deever, the secret fiancée of Keller’s only surviving son, the character has a tricky path to tread staying in the family house. The secrecy born from her having previously been sweethearts with the brother now missing in action, makes that path yet more treacherous and a lesser actor might have had a field day demonstrating this difficulty. But Gallichan has a commendable lightness of touch that dealt with the drama of this turbulent family unit admirably, once again enabling all the characters’ relationships to be deftly negotiated and the story to be told.
I should also give credit to the rigorous accent work done by Marie Ellis. On the whole, the characters clearly came from the same neighbourhood, which added to our feeling that we were in safe hands.
Overall this is an excellent production. The pace and energy keep the tension of the language hurtling along and the clarity of the story never falters. And bar a couple of moments of ‘proppy biz’, I really felt that I was witnessing something that tapped into that ‘universal truth’ that theatre often finds so hard to achieve.