This is Miller at his most magnificent.
“All My Sons” was the turning point in Arthur Miller’s playwriting career. If it had failed, he’d have packed it all in. Instead it was the making of him – and it will certainly be the making of Theatr Clwyd’s new season.
There is barely a spare word in the entire play and the Clwyd company’s precision delivery of it is a marvel…with 5 star performances from absolutely everyone involved.
Played out before Mark Bailey’s exploded whitewood house, against a Rene Magritte sky, the play has a beguiling beginning. The dialogue is as cosy and innocent as an episode of ‘Peyton Place’. There’s just one clue of what’s to come when Joe Keller, owner of an machinery manufacturing company, confides that he doesn’t read the ‘news bits’ of the daily paper any more.
What unfolds is Miller’s 1947 masterpiece on the devastating effects of corruption within the arms business and the catastrophic consequences of lying about it. The Keller family explodes just like their house. It was all written seven decades ago but, as Iraq and Iran have proved, nothing has changed.
This is hugely powerful stuff. Emotions swoop and soar and turn on a dime.
The loveliest of hesitant love scenes between Keller’s boy Chris (Simon Holland Roberts) and his dead brother’s sweetheart Annie (Catrin Aaron) is riven by war memories. When the icy son of Joe’s business partner (an impressive Clwyd debut for Mathew Bulgo) turns up with the scent of truth in his nostrils, he is first warmed into compliance by the intoxication of being back on his home patch … before a loose comment jerks him back to his quest in a trice.
These terrific swings of mood, shamelessly directed by Kate Wasserberg (at the very top of her game), pin you to your seat. Miller is so very good at obliging you to share his characters’ shoes. “But what would I do?” loops round and round your mind. The deeply uncomfortable conclusion is “probably much the same”. There is no escape from the scalpel of Miller’s cross-examination.
Most of the cast have magic moments. The ever-excellent Catrin Aaron is on such good form she could act to a tree stump…and does! Ian Burfield’s Joe goes on a terrible, inevitable journey from kindly father figure to unmasked bastard. Sian Howard (as his wife) plays her false hope with huge piety – made all the more tragic as we slowly realise she has known of the deceit all along. And Simon Holland Roberts is a human fireball as his aspirations are mercilessly seared from him.
It’s an all round terrific production; powerful, pervasive and hugely pertinent.
Mr Miller’s centenary falls on the last night of this run. I suspect he’ll be there; beaming broadly.
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Photos : Catherine Ashmore