All My Sons (Tour) – 'Michael Buffong ratchets up the tension'

Talawa Theatre Company revives Arthur Miller’s classic

Dona Croll and Ray Shell
Dona Croll and Ray Shell
© Pamela Raith

Talawa, one of the country's
leading Black theatre companies, has embarked on a major tour of Arthur
's first Broadway successes – All My Sons. Miller sets the action
in the backyard of a prosperous home just outside an industrial town.
The year is 1947. The Second World War has been brought to a successful
conclusion; the surviving fighters have returned home.

Black Americans did eventually win officer status in the Air Force; the
two sons of factory-owner Joe Keller (Ray Shell) have done just that.
Larry, however, died in action. Now his fiancée Ann Deever (Kemi-Bo
) has been invited to visit by the surviving son Chris (Leemore
Marrett Jr
). Ann and Chris plan to marry but Kate Keller (Dona Croll)
persists in a delusion that Larry is still alive and that Ann remains
faithful to his memory.

Revelations about both the Keller and Deever families are gradually
unveiled, partly through the interventions of neighbours Jim and Sue
Bayliss (Andrea Davy and Ewen Cummins) who now live in the former Deever
home. The catalyst for the final dénouement is the arrival of Ann's
brother George (Ashley Gerlach), a lawyer just returned from visiting
his father in prison.

The performances are committed and very good with Croll's Kate
heartbreaking in her depiction of a woman clutching desperately at
shredded delusions. Shell matches her as the outwardly nonchalant
patriarch forced to own up to his part in the death of his son and the
ruin of his former business partner. Jacobs and Marrett also carry
conviction, though Gerlach takes a little too much long to present us
with the whole man.

Ellen Cairns' setting is an interesting blend of the realistic and the
symbolic. The realistic verandah porch with its rocking-chair is
familiar from films; the tree-painted flats which frame the action are
much more symbolic, suggesting that there is something unknown always
waiting to encroach. Johanna Town's lighting is clever and subtle.
Director Michael Buffong does takes his time with Act One but ratchets up the tension
after the interval with the final two acts.

All My Sons runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 21 February
and tours nationally until 25 April

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