Sunday, 6 October 2013

All My Sons @ The Royal Exchange, 01.10.13

Fans of 20th century American theatre should not miss this Talawa Theatre Company production of Arthur Miller’s classic All My Sons at the Royal Exchange. Talawa Theatre is an award-winning black-led theatre company whose mission is to promote and create work informed by the diversity of the black experience for both actors and audiences. Director Michael Buffong’s version is true to the original text, but by using an all-black cast he allows us to see the universality of the play’s themes: love, family, money and war. The play hits home hard about how the different characters are affected by the demands and distresses of war – in this case, WWII.

The action throughout the play centres on the porch and yard of the Keller family home, where passing neighbours stop for a chat, and where the local doctor often comes to see his friend Chris Keller (Chike Okonkwo). The Kellers seem to be a popular and charming family. Joe Keller (Don Warrington) banters with the local children and gives off the air of a relaxed and highly successful businessman.

However, early on in the play we learn that the Keller’s son Larry is missing in action, and as the play progresses we see that his mother Kate Keller (Dona Croll) does not want to believe her son could possibly be dead. Last night’s wind has symbolically led to the falling of the apple tree that had been planted in memory of Larry, and Kate mourns how the tree was planted too early. In contrast, the sweetheart Larry left behind – Annie (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) – wants to move on and accept the death of Larry. The developing tension between these characters and their ways of dealing with the loss of Larry highlights the strength of the two actors; Croll and Jacobs in their elegant dresses are beautiful, charming and lively, providing an emotional and physical centre to the play.

Ellen Cairns has designed a brilliantly authentic set, a perfect backdrop as the characters battle out their inner demons, skeletons come out of the closet and ghosts of the past return to haunt them. The set is a typical 1940s American middle-class yard and porch, with parsley pots, a swing, a rocking chair and white weathered wood. The lighting designer, Johanna Town, begins with a magnificently sunny day, but as the day goes on darkness descends on the Kellers. When the neighbours who often stop by are gone, and when first Annie and then George arrive, we learn of the darkness of that hangs over the Keller family, and we come to see the “fine hairline crack” amidst all the grand talk of going out for a night on the town to dine, dance and drink.

Words: Sadia Habib.
Images: Jonathan Keenan.

All My Sons continues at The Royal Exchange until 26th October.

No comments:

Post a Comment