REVIEW: All My Sons, Rose Theatre Kingston

This is the first time that Arthur Miller’s classic play is being brought to the stage in Kingston and Michael Rudman’s production is sensitive yet has the power to pack a punch in all of the right places. 

All My Sons at the Rose Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet _31B1122.jpg

The cast of All My Sons. Photograph by Mark Douet.

It has been fantastic to see the Rose Theatre becoming more confident with its programme choices over the years and now following from the hugely successful Good Canary, comes Michael Rudman’s production of Arthur Miller’s play about the American Dream – gone wrong.

Set several years after the disappearance of Larry Keller during the war, All My Sons follows the Keller family as they try to come to terms with his loss. Mother Kate refuses to believe that he is dead, leading to frustration for both her husband Joe and other son Chris. On top of this, Larry’s sweetheart Ann Deever  is staying with the Keller family ready to announce her engagement to Chris – but little do they realise that the Deever and Keller’s connection runs much deeper and filled with a dark secret at the heart of it.

Thanks to the extraordinary set design by Michael Taylor (one of the best and most elaborate I have seen at the Rose), the audience is fooled into thinking quite effectively that the Keller family are really living the American Dream. By setting it outside the Keller’s house it shows how quickly the perfect family home disintegrates into a battlefield for the truth and exposure of guilt.

The clever structure of the play means that the production is allowed to increase and decrease the intensity in equal measures which is a strong technique to keep the audience engrossed from beginning to end. But occasionally this balance is lost – particularly when it comes to conveying certain horrifying truths that emerge in the climatic scenes that can come across as quite casual and lacking in the dramatic reactions that we come to expect.

However, the scene in which Chris confronts his father about what happened during the war and specifically his involvement with the cracked cylinder heads to the Air Force, leading to the deaths of 21 pilots in plane crashes during the war is so beautifully built up. It is a scene that is one of the most powerful – the destruction of faith and trust in a parent is really painful to watch.

The performances are all equally strong, but in particular Penny Downie as Kate Keller, grief etched across her face and a determination not to face the truth of what happened to her son Larry is hard but mesmerising to watch and yet powerfully portrayed, the way in which she clings to Ann asking about her loyalty to Larry is uncomfortable to watch but perfectly captures her character. David Horovitch as Joe Keller is the character who undergoes a big change – from being a likeable and charming father who everyone confides in to a person whose secrets, lies and  guilt eventually unravel his life is not an easy transition to make but Horovitch does it well. Alex Waldmann as Chris is delivers the most passionate performance from his awkward manner of talking to Ann about marriage, to the way in which he confronts Joe showcases a an exhausting amount of emotion.

If there is still one issue that remains at the Rose Theatre it is the sound. The actors haven’t got microphones so occasionally (and I was sitting in one of the front rows) some of the dialogue is lost despite the best ability of the actors. It is particularly a problem when characters are talking with their backs to the audience.

Despite the fact that it feels as though it is holding back slightly and occasional moments that lack in conviction, it is a strong and raw production that effectively conveys the break down of a family and how secrets from our past always have a way of catching up with us when we least expect it.

Thanks to Theatre Bloggers for helping to organise the trip!

All Our Sons plays at the Rose Theatre in Kingston-Upon-Thames until the 19th November. To book tickets visit: Discount Theatre.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk , Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.  

Rating: ❤❤❤❤