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

Talawa Theatre Company revives Arthur Miller's classic

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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 Miller'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 Jacobs) 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