All My Sons
19 February – 9 March, 2019
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Jemima Levick directs an accomplished cast in Miller’s tragic drama of the moral bankruptcy of post-war American paternalism. Miller’s moralising can be heavy-handed at times, especially for an audience cynical of authority. But beyond the clash of father and son, this production shows us a mother, paralysed by grief, desperately trying to mitigate the impact of a truth bursting to reveal itself on a family already lost to each other.
Joe Keller is the model of a self-made man. Everything he has, he has worked hard for. He had two sons. One son, Larry, went missing-in-action in the war and the other son Chris, an army veteran himself, is set to inherit the family business. Powerfully played by Barrie Hunter, Joe is the embodiment of American masculinity – hard-working, respected by his peers and self-assured. But he is concealing a secret. He made a mistake. During the war, pressured by the military hawks, he was responsible for allowing faulty aircraft parts to leave his factory. This led to the death of twenty-one airmen. At the government inquiry he knowingly let his business partner Steve take the rap for his failure. His partner went to prison, leaving Joe scot-free.
Chris (Daniel Cahill), Joe’s idealistic son, has invited Ann (Amy Kennedy), his missing brother’s sweetheart, back to the family home. He intends to ask her to marry him. However, Ann is also the daughter of Joe’s jailed business partner. Ann’s arrival sparks a series of explosive revelations that will not end well.
At the centre of the action is Kate Keller, Joe’s wife and Chris’s mother. Irene MacDougall gives an outstanding performance as the matriarch of the group. At times wrapped in grief, at others trying to take charge of a situation spiralling out of her control.
Alex Lowde’s design is stark and restrained. The back-yard of the Kellers, where all the action takes place, is a sterile space surrounded by dead trees, even in August it seems. Atmospheric, almost ambient sounds by David Paul Jones deepen the feeling of sterility and mournfulness that pervades the production. The oppressive atmosphere builds with the approaching climax: as Chris and Joe confront each other once Joe’s truth breaks out, the storm that’s been rumbling off-stage breaks into a torrential downpour, cooling the August heat that’s been brewing in the Keller’s garden.
Dundee Rep’s production of All My Sons, like most of Miller’s theatre is never light drama, but it’s like the Ancient Greek tragedies that it nods towards – a cathartic experience that goes with you, long after you walk away, satisfied and a little wiser.