ALL MY SONS
WINNER: NODA Best Regional Drama 2015
The story of All My Sons concerns a decision made by Joe Keller, whose company manufactures parts of aircraft engines, both to allow a batch of faulty cylinder heads to be supplied to the Army Air Force and to allow his partner to take moral and legal responsibility for this. Joe goes free on appeal; his partner (Steve Deever) goes to prison. Meanwhile, one of his sons, Larry, goes missing in the war, a fact that the boy's mother, Kate, will not acknowledge, while the other, Chris, returns from the war and, after a time decides to propose to Larry's fiancee, Ann Deever, Steve's daughter. Not everyone has forgotten the court case and as the play unwinds, so suppressed anxieties and concealed truths work their way to the surface.
Cast and Creative Team
Kate Keller | Verna Bayliss
Lydia Lubey | Gemma Blake
Chris Keller | Thomas Farthing
Joe Keller | Jeff Foster
George Deever | Adam Guest
Jim Bayliss | Mik Horvath
Ann Deever | Emily Marshall-Sims
Frank Lubey | Ben Sherwin
Sue Bayliss | Marie Stone
Bert | Billy Sweet
Director | Barry Taylor
Set Construction | Chris Bancroft
Company Stage Manager | Lucy Young
Sound Design | Barry Taylor
Wardrobe & Props Manager | Marie Stone
Production Manager | Phil Simcox
Lighting Designer | Stephen Greatorex
Assistant Sound | Harry Greatorex
Production Graphics | Marie Stone
Photography | Chris Clarke
Chaperones | Lloyd & Kerry Sweet
Playwright | Arthur Miller
"...packed with strongly effective performances from every single member of the cast..."
Just how far would you go to protect and provide for your family? And how would you handle the consequences should the truth ever come out?
In Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (performed at Derby’s Guildhall Theatre by Fourblokes Theatre Company this week) the truth does indeed come out and while the effects upon the characters are earth-shattering, this production as a whole is a triumph.
We meet the Kellers and their neighbours in a mid-western American town suburb, sweltering in the late-summer heat of 1946.
Set designer Chris Bancroft has captured the essence of the era and the location beautifully and made the most of the stage space afforded, and along with thoughtful lighting the mood was set.
Joe Keller (a larger-than-life (and a great deal of the set) Jeff Foster) is the head of the family, a charming yet troubled man in his 60s who was once the co-owner of a parts manufacturing company. Somewhere along the line Joe has had to go it alone as his business partner Steve Deever was sent to jail, but as the play progresses it becomes obvious that there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Along with his wife Kate (Verna Bayliss) the family home is completed by his two sons, Larry and Chris (Thomas Farthing). Larry was a pilot in the US Air Force who died in action two years ago, although Kate sadly convinces herself that he is merely ‘missing’ and will eventually return. To further add to the emotional strain, Chris fought and survived the Second World War and now feels a sense of guilt at having survived when so many others died.
As the play develops the truth becomes more and more twisted as neighbours and further family members come and go, each one pecking away at the Keller family structure to leave it ever more fragile.
Director Barry Taylor deserves credit for bringing the best out of a very talented cast and there are some truly harrowing moments as, bit by bit, the cosy mid-American world of picket fences, fresh apples and sunsets on the verandah warps and disintegrates.
Thomas Farthing in particular excels as 32 year old Chris, his character propelled through a full spectrum of emotions while his spirit and beliefs are stretched to breaking point in very convincing fashion. His scenes with Emily Marshall-Sims (a superbly understated performance as his lover Ann Deever) were a real highlight, as was his eventual show-down with his father.
Marie Stone also shines as the sour neighbour Sue Bayliss, who is quick to show her disapproval at Chris and Ann’s burgeoning relationship (bearing in mind that she was previously in love with his ‘missing’ brother Larry), while Adam Guest’s hurricane-like entry into the story as Ann’s brother George is suitably vitriolic.
Indeed, this is a brilliant production packed with strongly effective performances from every single member of the cast. As such, Fourblokes have delivered a highly compelling realisation of Miller’s play that serves to dramatically raise the bar for the local theatre scene.
The play, ‘All My Sons’ by Arthur Miller, is set in mid-west America just after the Second World War and takes place over twenty four hours. Joe Keller, now a successful business man, made a fortune during the War manufacturing parts for military aircraft. He spent time in prison when 21 planes crashed due to defective parts. He was eventually exonerated but his partner, Steve Deever, was deemed responsible and is currently in prison. Joe’s son, Larry, was reported missing in the war, but even after three years, Kate, his mother, refuses to believe he is dead and is convinced that he will return. Chris, her other son, would like her to give up that hope because he wants to marry Ann Deever, an old neighbour and Larry’s former fiancee who incidentally is the daughter of Joe’s old business partner, Steve. It is a cleverly conceived and superbly written play with many layers that eventually all unravel with devastating and tragic outcomes. Jeff Foster is truly convincing as Joe Keller. He commands the stage at all times, depicting the many varied emotions in all his interactions, from the role- playing with young Bert (ably played by Billy Sweet) to his obvious love for his wife and son and his utterly bombastic and defensive ruthlessness. Verna Bayliss was absolutely superb as Kate, Joe’s wife. The terrific swings of moods she portrayed from warm heartedness to total anguish and stubborn unreasonability, were delivered with the insight and perception of the character’s tortured existence. An outstanding performance came from Thomas Farthing as Chris Keller, who had fought and survived the war. He delivers his many emotional struggles and idealistic beliefs, magnificently. He finally ‘cracks’, and we witness a brilliantly executed show-down with his father. Ann Deever was charmingly played by Emily Marshall-Simms portraying her quiet, inner strength to perfection and Adam Guest admirably managed to be both menacing and yet quite vulnerable as George Deever, her brother. Great support came from Mik Horvath as Dr. Jim Bayliss, Marie Stone as Sue Bayliss, Ben Sherman as Frank Lubey and Gemma Blake as Lydia Lubey. A very effective set and props, good lighting and sound effects all added to the ambience of the play. Once again, Barry Taylor has put together and astutely directed a cast of extremely talented people who all delivered this heart-rending and traumatic play to perfection – by the end of which, I was in tears. What more can I say, it was an absolutely brilliant, outstanding and remarkable production.