“That’s why there’s a God; otherwise anything can happen”
Arthur Miller’s titanic All My Sons has been well served in recent years – the late Howard Davies reviving his National Theatre production to stunning effect in 2010 and Michael Buffong illuminating it anew for Talawa Theatre in 2013 – so any new production has big boots to fill. And though seasoned director Michael Rudman comes with quite the track record (including a Tony for his work on Death of a Salesman in 1984), this production doesn’t quite howl with the anguish it could.
Part of the problem lies in Michael Taylor’s design which, whilst superficially impressive, works against the idiosyncratic space of the Rose Kingston and Rudman’s pacing negates far too much of the inherent tension in Miller’s depiction of the souring of the American Dream. So much comes from its slow-burning intensity that it is hard to believe that so many key moments get fudged, their drama fudged into melodrama or in some cases, just missing the beat entirely.
The performance level is certainly strong though. David Horovitch’s Joe Keller makes the deterioration from patriarch to pariah achingly awful, and Penny Downie’s Kate is achingly sad as the self-delusion she’s wrapped around her life weighs her down. Alex Waldmann’s Chris and Francesca Zoutewelle’s Ann negotiate the ghosts of the past and the uncertainty of the future with skill and Edward Harrison radiates all the honourable anger that comes with the ugly truth.
But their efforts feel too often misdirected, under-vocalised at times too, so that even when Downie and Horovitch are at their haunting best, this All My Sons just doesn’t resonate as strongly as this play can.