ARTHUR Miller’s All My Sons is regarded as one of the greatest plays of the 20th century, yet it is performed rarely, requiring a level of emotional and intellectual concentration from its audience that is unusual in these 90-minutes-and-off-to-the-bar days.
Set in the back yard of a house in a well-to-do neighbourhood of an American town in the summer of 1947, this is tragedy writ large, in the ancient Greek style.
What seems to be a happy and well respected family is undermined by lies, pretence and self-delusion, and this is the day the lid comes off.
Patriarch Joe is the head of a local factory which has made various bits of equipment for the recent war. His friend and second in command Steve Deever is in prison, serving time for bodging a job on an engine component which sent 21 young men to their deaths in faulty planes.
Joe’s youngest son Chris is a former soldier who is known for his hard work, sunny nature and high principles.
Joe’s wife Katie spends her time waiting for the return of Larry, their older son, missing in action, but she holds everything together with an iron will.
Chris has invited Ann, his missing brother’s fiancee and Steve’s daughter, to the house, and he’s going to propose marriage.
It all starts in the early hours, when a violent storm tears down a young tree planted on Larry’s birthday. Katie sees it as portentous, and so it proves.
The play was inspired by a true story that happened in Ohio. Its success on stage depends on perfectly judged acting and direction, and that’s just what it gets at Street.
Phil Turley coaxes consistent accents from his cast, and makes no compromises in his rigorous dissection of the story.
At its centre is a mesmerising performance by Karen Trevis as Katie, powerfully matched by Andrew Baber’s Joe and Phil Aizlewood’s Chris. Amy Beckinsale-Coll is the ill-fated Ann, with Edgar Phillips as the disillusioned doctor.
All ten members of the cast, including the young Boris Findlay as the neighbourhood child, put in memorable work in this compelling drama.
See it if you can.