FringeReview Scotland 2012
Strathclyde Theatre Group have tackled one of Arthur Miller’s lesser lauded pieces with verve and gusto allowing the narrative to flow in the telling of a tale that continues to shock. A man who chases the American dream destroys his own family as part of the pursuit whilst enabled by a wife in denial and a son in ignorance. All of this plays out against the backdrop of a family and their neighbours, realising that this family is not all they cracked up to be.
All My Sons delves into the realm of how the patriarch, Joe holding together his family through a lie. It is a lie that lead to his friend and neighbour becoming imprisoned, his son falling for his brother’s girl, his wife being deluded into believing that the absent son would return, a son who’s death ahs been hidden and a story ripe for exploitation. With an acknowledged Ibsenesque influence this is a play that may sit in the shadows of other Miller plays but can stand alongside them as a brutal exploration and exposure of the American dream and how the pursuit of it can have unidentified devastating consequences. We are invited into the house of a crumbling family and allowed to witness the layers of deception being pealed back until the final horror revealed leads to even more drama.
I have a huge soft spot for Strathclyde Theatre Group. In the early eighties whilst still a student I went to see their production of Twelfth Night. To this date I have still to find a better example of how Shakespeare’s words and actions can be interpreted. The boundary between the script and its interpretation for this Community company is critical and raises it above the stilted drama that can be seen by many community theatres attempting what Brook rightly called Dead or Holy Theatre.
Miller’s writing is crisp and sharp whilst at times rather ponderous but ponderous for a reason and with sharp reasoning. It calls for subtle performances as anything more theatrical can lead you more towards Tennessee Williams crossed with Coronation Street. There was a fine performance here from Peter Williamson as Joe ably aided by an ensemble cast that was held together by his ability to portray a very complex character. Unfortunately for some, their portrayals tended to be more crowd pleasing than accurate and it verged on the edge of pantomimic. I realise this may sound a tad harsh and it is not meant to as the performances were superior to most that I have seen in similar circumstances and I would recommend STG to anyone.
The stage was functional and I would suggest they spend a little bit of cash on it. The props and scenery were there because they were being used. There was therefore little by way of design. In the current climate though – and with a ticket price of £12 – it is very hard for any company to wash its face by doing classical drama. At least it can be a problem trying to do it economically in a real theatre that is trying to keep itself open. There are fewer and fewer of those in Glasgow these days!
There were good production values on show here and again of its style and genre this is superior to most. The audience went away very happy with what they had seen and should have been likely to reappear at the theatre the following week – at STG’s next performance – Death of a Salesman. This was, I hear, mainly sold to schools. That is a tough gig for any company and I am sure they will not have been disappointed as this will meet the needs of any English teacher needing to get across to their students what live theatre should tell them about the words on the paper.
All My Sons has stood the test of time and being eclipsed by other Miller pieces. It was a great night out and one that would not make me hesitate getting along to see the company again. It was not quite the equal of my Twelfth Night from the early eighties but as we get older perhaps nothing ever seems as good as it was way back then…