“This thing – this thing is not over yet….”
Ivo van Hove’s revelatory approach to Arthur Miller’s work has set the bar almost impossibly high for other directors and so it’s perhaps a little unfortunate that Timothy Sheader is first up with All My Sons, the opening production in this year’s season in the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. It’s not that it’s a bad production, not at all, but rather it just feels a little pedestrian, too traditional to really make the heart beat faster in the way brilliant theatre should, and in the way previous productions have done.
There are elements that work well – the span of the play over a day is perfectly suited to the night that slowly falls over the park, the planes that fly noisily overhead add a piquancy of their own and the well-cast company are excellent. Tom Mannion’s Joe Keller is the patriarch whose collusion in a terrible fraud hangs ominously like a cloud over his family, Charles Aitken and Amy Nuttall are moving as son Chris and his intended (with strings) Ann and Bríd Brennan is fearsomely fantastic as the delusional Kate.
But the play’s the thing, it is so superbly written that it would take something supremely shocking to disturb that essential equilibrium but equally, it deserves to be showcased better. Mannion doesn’t quite bring the intelligence to Joe that would make him the arch-manipulator that he is revealed to be and the rhythm of Sheader’s production takes far too long to really get started in a mostly lethargic first half. The intensity comes later as night falls, secrets spill forth and Brennan’s final cries shatter the heart.