All My Sons, Churchill Productions at Wimborne Tivoli

ONE of the greatest plays of the 20th century, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, is a brave and triumphant choice for the Churchill company in Wimborne.

The Tivoli’s is an audience not accustomed to big, serious drama, unless it’s in the form of a movie. But the many who all but filled the stalls on the opening night had their expectations surpassed by this intense production.

Miller’s story was based on real life, spotted from a story in an Ohio newspaper. It is set in August 1946 in the garden of the Keller family, who, three years earlier, lost their son Larry, “missing in action.”

Joe Keller, with the help of his son Chris, runs an engineering factory employing many of his neighbours, making components for various machines. During the war they supplied the military.

The factory turned out faulty cylinder heads which were held responsible for the deaths of a score of pilots. But on the day the consignment was shipped, Joe was not in work. The order was signed off by his then partner and next-door-neighbour,  Steve Deever.  Steve is now in prison. His daughter Ann, who was engaged to Larry and is now courting Chris, has not spoken to her father in years, and neither has her brother George, a newly qualified lawyer.

Joe’s wife Kate has been driven mad by the certainty that Larry is alive and will return, and when Chris brings Ann back to the house, the scene is set for catastrophe.

In the short third act, as tensions rise, the truth finally emerges.

Once again Churchill has gathered a fine company of actors who, under the incisive direction of Pete Talman, bring this shocking story to vivid life.

John Billington brilliantly captures the  sudden change in Joe’s avuncular persona, and Jan Wyld’s extraordinary intensity fills the stage as she wills her family and friends to think as she thinks.

Justin Ellery has never been better than as the principled Chris, balanced by the hopefully realistic Ann (Tracie Billington). Sam James eases the tension as the comically obsessed neighbour Frank.

All My Sons is on until 2nd November, with a Saturday matinee as well.  See it if you can.


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