REVIEW: “All My Sons” - a timely triumph of American tragedy at Nottingham Playhouse

Sean Chapman stars as Joe Keller in All My Sons, at Nottingham Playhouse.
Sean Chapman stars as Joe Keller in All My Sons, at Nottingham Playhouse.

A searing production of Arthur Miller’s classic American tragedy “All My Sons” is now on at Nottingham Playhouse.

Director Fiona Buffini describes her production as “timely”, following the election of US president Donald Trump, and she successfullly summons an atmosphere of ever-present threat with the nose-diving roar of crippled jet engines.

The play itself, first performed in 1947, deals with the fall-out from World War Two on a small town American family.

Various forms of guilt infect the Kellers - the survivor’s guilt of idealistic war hero Chris, (Cary Crankson) - as well as the hidden guilt of his successful businessman father Joe (Sean Chapman) - and this gripping drama explores how the catastrophe of war contorts and contaminates everybody’s lives.

Even the apple tree in the Kellers’ perfect suburban back garden has been wrenched free of its moorings.

It’s hard to single out a best performance, as every actor does sterling work, bringing each character to vivid and idiosyncratic life.

Caroline Loncq’s Kate mother exerts steely powers of coercion to support the pathetic hope that her missing son Larry is still alive; Eva Jane-Willis brings an air of fragile grace to the role of the interloper, who threatens to detonate a terrible secret.

Shaun Chapman’s bulkily brooding presence powerfully recalls the protagonist of The Sopranos - a more recent US drama about death, guilt and thwarted masculinity.

Cary Crankson’s Chris swoops from Gene Wilder-esque nervousness in a love scene, to a blank mask of disillusion by the powerfully-realised conclusion.

Written by one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, Pulitzer Prize-winner Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible and A View from the Bridge), All My Sons is family drama at its best.

Highly recommended.

Only one question: don’t the warning notes taped to the auditorium doors about sound effects pre-empt Chekov’s famous dictum about guns in act three (and therefore spoil the ending)?

Nottingham Playhouse

Friday 6 – Saturday 21 October

Evenings 7.30pm

Matinees Saturday 14 October 2.30pm, Thursday 19 October 1.30pm