All My Sons
THE 21st century has given renewed relevance to Arthur Miller’s 1947 play, which is brought to Inverness by Glasgow company Rapture Theatre.
Its central moral issue, hinging on war profiteering that makes money for businessmen safely at home at the cost of lives out in the field, has reflections in scandals and accusations from Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Miller’s world, however, suburban prosperous America is a battleground in itself, so the issue is brought down to a more domestic scale as he focuses on two families the Kellers and the Deevers, who should have been safe behind their picket fences.
The Kellers already seem to have the ultimate price of a patriotic family. One son, Larry, never came home from the conflict, although his mother Kate (The Bill’s Trudie Goodwin) clings to a desperate hope that he might still come home three years after his plane went down.
Her other son, Chris, has survived, but at a cost that is both psychical and, more importantly, psychological in the form of a bad case of survivor guilt, having seen most of his unit sacrifice themselves in a doomed attempt to save their friends.
Easy-going patriarch Joe Keller (Paul Shelley, now recovered from a health issue that led him to miss the show’s opening in Glasgow), affects surprise at the modern world he finds himself in and attempts to live a peaceful life after being cleared of passing faulty engine parts onto the military resulting in the deaths of 21 US pilots.
The blame for that fell squarely on Joe’s partner, Steve Deever, now serving a prison sentence and estranged from his daughter Ann (Bryonny Afferson), Larry’s sweetheart and now in love with Chris.
It is Ann’s arrival that is the catalyst for exposing the Kellers to some uncomfortable truths as Chris and Ann’s marriage plans amount to a public acknowledgement that Larry is dead.
Shelley provides a solid anchor as Joe, struggling to keep calm and maintain appearances almost up until the end.
Against this, Scottish actor Robbie Jack has more to work with as Chris.
The single set reflects the claustrophobic restrictions on his life since he returned from the war, unhappily working in his father’s factory and, until now, reluctant to pursue his own chance of happiness with Ann.
Goodwin also impresses as a woman whose only defence against overwhelming grief is self-deception, and if a couple of cast members’ American accents waver slightly too much, Lyn McAndrew makes up for them as Sue Bayliss, whose neighbourliness hides a waspish hatred of the Kellers.
It is a fairly straightforward and unflashy version of Miller’s play, but when the basic material is this good, no gimmicks are required and it bodes well for Rapture Theatre’s version of Miller’s lesser known play The Last Yankee when it comes to Eden Court in November.
All My Sons finishes its Eden Court run on Wednesday 9th September.