Monday, 17 December 2018

Review: All My Sons

WATCHING Arthur Miller’s All My Sons means two hours wrestling with anger, frustration and sometimes fury

WATCHING Arthur Miller’s All My Sons means two hours wrestling with anger, frustration and sometimes fury. That’s what Miller intended and that’s what Talawa Theatre Company deliver at the Oxford Playhouse this week.

This is one of the finest plays to emerge from the 20th century in this writer’s view. It never dates because its themes, like so many of Miller’s, are permanent: greed, power and narrow vision.

Talawa Theatre is dedicated to producing work exclusively from black actors and companies and it’s come up with some stunners in the past few years. This time an all-black cast takes on the ultimate white heartland of the military-industrial complex of America during the Second World War.

Is there a new perspective added from this unexpected ethnicity? None at all, but that’s the point, human beings are the same wherever and whatever they are, according to Miller’s text.

Joe Keller is a warplane manufacturer dedicated to his family and supporting them through making money at whatever cost. That cost is counted in dead airmen as knowingly faulty engines leave his plant and go into fighter planes.

He passes this off on his partner because in the end only his family counts, not even best friends. He will sacrifice everything for family and the almighty dollar.

The role of Joe is pivotal and previously has been played as a hardman cynic. But here, Ray Shell gives it a different slant. He exudes jollity in the first half and it makes much more sense. Better to hide his guilt through humour â?? a form of denial.

His son, Chris, acts as the conscience of the play and Leemore Marrett Jr gives it a dignity and depth befitting the task.

Miller’s beautifully wrought text gives everyone a chance to shine as he steadily sews threads of dissent into the household, then extends it to the wider world while always referring back to the microcosm of the family.

All My Sons is a profound piece of theatre and Talawa have maintained that tradition.

Mike Rowbottom

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