‘This cast and crew are to be warmly commended… The result of their efforts was highly enjoyable and memorable…
All My Sons, directed by Molly Knox (assistant director Felicity Rickard), presents Arthur Miller’s harrowing tragedy relating the self-destruction of the Keller family – and arguably that of post-war America more widely. Needless to say, it is an ambitious project to produce. However, this rendition by Wrong Tree did not disappoint, and even added new intrigue to the sombre family drama.
Intrigue was indeed central to this production, and there was a refreshing air of enigma before the first line was uttered. Prior to the opening of the play, the audience felt immersed in the Keller’s home, entering the auditorium with the cast already onstage. Each member contributed to a symphony of sound – newspapers incessantly flicking, tapping of sticks, low whistling – which slowly built an unsettling atmosphere. This eeriness was astutely enhanced by constant shifts in lighting (Carrie Cheung), from warm tones to darker ones. Although perhaps slightly too harsh given the proximity of audience to stage, and the small space, lighting was very effectively used elsewhere; it was a wise choice, for instance, to include only one total blackout, as this prevented breaks in pace and kept momentum high throughout. Given the omission of an interval, this was certainly appreciated.
The audience were also invited into the Keller home by virtue of Allington House’s staging. Resembling a studio theatre, the room had been used advantageously to create an engaging experience. The wings were seamlessly integrated into the stage, being simply covered in trellis, and allowing smooth transitions. Movement was very polished in this production, and Scarlett Clarke’s work in this respect certainly showed. As movement director, she added refreshing instances of physical theatre to enhance the centrality of home to the play. A memorable use of this was in a scene between Ann (Izzy Bainbridge) and Chris (Horatio Holloway) at the end of Act I, their harmonious movement adding an endearing touch to the doomed couple. It was also poignantly reminiscent of Chris’ own use of physical theatre at the beginning of the act when he expressed his longing for a wife and baby.
All My Sons is not just a family drama. It is also the story of multiple families, and how they might contribute to each other’s downfall. This aspect of the tragedy was cleverly explored by actors EJ Lord and Maariya Khalid, playing the neighbouring couple Jim and Sue. Whilst Lord used moments of comic relief to ease the bubbling tense atmosphere, Khalid subtly added to it. She was impressive as a taunting, almost malevolent Sue. Her scene with Ann highlighted this creation of unease especially well, as she kept the pace of her voice slow and her tone low, but then raised it as she emphatically declared: ‘I resent living next to the holy family.’ In this rendition of the play, Ann shares this resentment, and most clearly towards her would-be mother-in-law, Kate (Emma Henderson). ‘Annie’ is not to be undermined in this production, and accordingly, Bainbridge faces up squarely to Henderson in their shared scenes; she is abrupt in her dialogue with her, and maintains direct, almost insolent eye contact between them.
Costuming was simple, and like for the set and music, did not detract from Miller’s writing. The palette was a cohesive blend of browns, beige and white. Sartorial choices also interestingly blended decades, with Kate dressed as a conventional 1950s middle-class housewife, and Annie adding a newer touch in a more modern dress and trainers. Similarly, accents, although perhaps not all matching, reflected a wider American panorama of families, and prevented the tragedy from remaining overly centered on one family. Joe (Mason Peach) is responsible for *all his sons*, after all. Peach is to be commended for his interactions with Holloway and Henderson, during which he was most expressive and elicited the greatest pathos for his character. He was very convincing as the imposing, yet pathetically insecure patriarch.
This cast and crew are to be warmly commended for staging such an intense play so convincingly. The result of their efforts was highly enjoyable and memorable.
By Elvire De Royere
Photo Credits: Wrongtree