All My Sons - Theatre ☆☆☆☆☆5
Showing from - Tuesday, November 17, 2015 through till Saturday, November 21, 2015
Derby Guildhall Theatre - Derby
Ross Lowe | Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Just how far would you go to protect and provide for your family? And how would you handle the consequences should the truth ever come out?
In Arthur Miller's All My Sons (performed at Derby's Guildhall Theatre by Fourblokes Theatre Company this week) the truth does indeed come out and while the effects upon the characters are earth-shattering, this production as a whole is a triumph.
We meet the Kellers and their neighbours in a mid-western American town suburb, sweltering in the late-summer heat of 1946.
Neighbours and family members come and go, each one pecking away at the Keller family structure
Set designer Chris Bancroft has captured the essence of the era and the location beautifully and made the most of the stage space afforded, and along with thoughtful lighting the mood was set.
Joe Keller (a larger-than-life (and a great deal of the set) Jeff Foster) is the head of the family, a charming yet troubled man in his 60s who was once the co-owner of a parts manufacturing company. Somewhere along the line Joe has had to go it alone as his business partner Steve Deever was sent to jail, but as the play progresses it becomes obvious that there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Along with his wife Kate (Verna Bayliss) the family home is completed by his two sons, Larry and Chris (Thomas Farthing). Larry was a pilot in the US Air Force who died in action two years ago, although Kate sadly convinces herself that he is merely 'missing' and will eventually return. To further add to the emotional strain, Chris fought and survived the Second World War and now feels a sense of guilt at having survived when so many others died.
As the play develops the truth becomes more and more twisted as neighbours and further family members come and go, each one pecking away at the Keller family structure to leave it ever more fragile.
Director Barry Taylor deserves credit for bringing the best out of a very talented cast and there are some truly harrowing moments as, bit by bit, the cosy mid-American world of picket fences, fresh apples and sunsets on the verandah warps and disintegrates.
Thomas Farthing in particular excels as 32 year old Chris, his character propelled through a full spectrum of emotions while his spirit and beliefs are stretched to breaking point in very convincing fashion. His scenes with Emily Marshall-Sims (a superbly understated performance as his lover Ann Deever) were a real highlight, as was his eventual show-down with his father.
Marie Stone also shines as the sour neighbour Sue Bayliss, who is quick to show her disapproval at Chris and Ann's burgeoning relationship (bearing in mind that she was previously in love with his 'missing' brother Larry), while Adam Guest's hurricane-like entry into the story as Ann's brother George is suitably vitriolic.
Indeed, this is a brilliant production packed with strongly effective performances from every single member of the cast. As such, Fourblokes have delivered a highly compelling realisation of Miller's play that serves to dramatically raise the bar for the local theatre scene.
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