All My Sons is a Talawa Theatre Company touring production. Arthur Miller’s play is business owner Joe Keller’s story of tragic events and dark secrets, and how his troubles have impacted on his family and on his relationships with others. In Act I we meet people that are so close knit and deeply connected that before the curtain even rises for the second Act, we know that the conclusion is going to be a revelation and hugely dramatic. Which it is!
Strong performances are therefore necessary on every level. On one hand players need to be portraying people that are outwardly enjoying the company of family and old friends and making those moments of being playful and warm with each other truly believable. While, at the same time, we must see that some character pairings and grouping are sometimes disguising inner hatreds; mistrust, or are perhaps harbouring a suspicion; a grudge. All these bad feelings are often hidden behind false smiles. Key characters maintain the main impetus of the play – that being people trying to bury the past; getting on with life as each sees fit; yet doing it in woeful ways and with a heavy heart. Getting these elements right is a tough nut to crack for an actor; cast members achieve good balance to the performances with intensity rocketing when it should. And this is definitely a human story, and not a zoo story, as the play itself refers to being.
Some small negatives, but judging by the comments over heard during the interval break and at the end the audience definitely appeared more ‘charged up’ and engaged in the plot than usual.
Talawa Theatre Company is the UK’s primary Black-led theatre company. Director is Michael Buffong. Talawa aims to create work informed by the wealth and diversity of the Black British experience, by investing in talent, building audiences and inspiring dialogue with and within communities across Britain.
Playing the role of Joe Keller, Ray Shell’s most recent theatre credits include The Bodyguard at the Aldephi, Perseverance Drive at the Bush Theatre and Driving Miss Daisy at the Wyndham’s Theatre. He also originated the role of Rusty in the West End production of Starlight Express.
Doña Croll plays Joe’s wife, Kate. Croll previously performed in Twelfth Night at Sheffield Crucible, The American Plan at Bath Theatre Royal & St. James Theatre , Heresy Of Love at the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Riots at the Tricycle. On screen, she is best known for her roles in Gimme Gimme Gimme, Doctors, Family Affairs, Casualty and most recently the ITV series The Ice Cream Girls.
The cast also features Leemore Marrett Jr (Chris Keller) Kemi Bo-Jacobs (Ann Deever), Ashley Gerlach (George Deever), Ewen Cummins (Jim Bayliss), Andrea Davy (Sue Bayliss), Bethan Mary James (Lydia Lubey), Chinna Wodu (Frank Lubey).
Reviewer, Debra Hall attended press night at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 24 March 2015. This review also appears online at Remotegoat Stage