The good life turns bad

Joe and Kate

Ray Shell as Joe Keller, the comfortable patriarch and his wife Kate, played by Dona Croll, who belives their long dead son is still alive. Picture: Pamela Raith

All my sons

Birmingham Rep

*****

ARTHER Miller’s brooding cauldron of morality, set in a post second world war family with its secrets  and lies, is brought to life by the highly talented Talawa Theatre Company.

The play written in 1947 was based the premise of a true story, where a manufacturer knowingly shipped out defective parts for tanks that were proved to have caused mechanical failures that then lead to the deaths of many soldiers.

The manufacturer was convicted and skilfully Miller places the essence of this crime into the lives of a torn family, coming to terms with the loss of a son yet within a hoanneusehold built on the wealth enjoyed by the wartime manufacturing.

It is August 1947, and Joe Keller is relaxing at his comfortable home enjoying the life he has built and worked hard for his family to enjoy.

At 61 he is nearing retirement and though he is still bearing the loss of one of his sons Larry, he is keen to move on from the tragedy of the war years. There is the happy prospect of his remaining son, Chris, who plans to marry Ann, Larry’s former fiancée.

There is the comfortable friendship and success he enjoys with neighbours and contentment with his business still prospering. However Kate his wife, still believes her son Larry to be alive and she carries and conceals the secret of her husband’s crime.

Miller’s story is powerfully constructed and the Talawan Company never fail to ring every twist and emotional turn out of the dialogue. Every performance is balanced, in place and well performed as each layer of the facts unravel, turning the good life into tragedy.

Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Anne, who holds the key to the family secret in a letter

Ray Shell as Joe is a commanding presence using his long theatre experience to create a solid realistic character, reflecting on the decisions he has made as a business man to support and provide opportunities for his family. One felt however that when his demise finally arrives that he is more casual than heartbroken at deceiving his family and so losing the respect of his son, but none the less played a pivotal role.

Leemore Marrett Jr as Chris delivered a passionate performance. His angry exchanges with his father when the Moral compass finally turned were very  convincing, yet he was subtle enough to convey his clean cut, naïve principles before the family secrets are revealed.

Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Anne was very effective, if a little too often staring off into the distance, like a `southern Belle’ during her performance .She was mostly polite and considering she holds the final key, in the form of a letter, to reveal the final damming truths, showed little of that during the play .

Dona Croll as the mother Kate was a joy to watch fiercely believing her son to be alive against all odds and wrongly convincing herself of her husband’s innocence. Her final tears of tragic loss were genuine enough that as the curtain call happens seconds later, she was still visibly upset while taking her bows.

All MY Sons is a complex tale that requires full investment of the players in their parts and skilful direction, here by Michael Buffong, to ensure the shift and downfall of each character happens realistically. The play is built on the criminal act of the supply of damaged goods but in this production, the work output is flawless and the final effect is much greater than the sum of the parts. To 28-03-15

Jeff Grant

24-03-15

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