Watching National Theatre Live’s screening of the hit UK production of All My Sons it felt as if there were two audience groups.
There were those who knew of Arthur Miller’s well-known play and then there were others, including me, who knew little about the storyline. We were the ones who audibly gasped with the uttering of several of the play’s key lines which revealed all.
Staring American actors Sally Field and Bill Pullman and English actors including Jenna Coleman and Colin Morgan, All My Sons has been playing to critical acclaim at London’s Old Vic Theatre for the past few months.
National Theatre Live’s screening of the May 14 performance is showing at selected Australian cinemas from June 15.
All My Sons is the story of the Keller family post World War Two. Joe Keller (Pullman) is a successful businessman in Ohio who, we discover, escaped a war time charge of providing defective cylinder heads to combat planes. However, his partner and former neighbour, Steve, was convicted of the offence and jailed. The faulty engine parts caused the death of 21 pilots.
While Keller seems to be happily getting on with his life, his wife, Kate (Field), isn’t. She refuses to believe her son, Larry, has died in the war. His body has never been found and the very nervy Kate believes he is still alive.
The Keller’s life changes dramatically when their other son Chris (Colin Morgan) invites Ann (Jenna Coleman), Larry’s ex fiancée and Steve’s daughter, to stay with the family. Chris has always loved Ann and now wants to marry her, an idea Kate finds abhorrent.
Adding to an already tense situation is the arrival of Ann’s brother, George (Oliver Johnstone), who has been to visit his father in jail. The results of George’s visit are catastrophic for all concerned.
Miller wrote All My Sons in 1947 and many argue the main themes of the play are still valid today including taking responsibility for our actions and dreams versus reality. These themes are illustrated through events in the Keller house and through their neighbours, Dr Jim Bayliss (Sule Rimi) and his wife Sue (Kayla Meikle).
The impact of war comes to the fore in the interaction between George and another of the Keller’s neighbours Lydia (Bessie Carter) together with Kate’s state of mind.
While all of the cast do a great job bringing their characters to life, Field and Johnstone are standouts.
Field’s Kate is at times an anxious, emotional mess but she also shows herself to be very manipulative and to have a very steely resolve.
Johnstone’s George is also emotionally fragile and seems rather lost in his search for the truth.
It’s the discovery of the truth and the impacts on all concerned which ensures All My Sons is a memorable and emotionally charged production.
All My Sons is showing at selected cinemas around Australia from June 15. Visit the National Theatre Live website for screening details.
*Photo credit: Johan Persson.
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