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Home » Blogs, Michael Amherst


Submitted by admin on June 28, 2010 – 10:02 amNo Comment

allmysonsEvery once in a while a performance of a play comes along that defines the genre or the playwright for you. It is the measure by which you judge all future productions of the same play, indeed all other plays by that playwright. Maybe even all plays. Howard Davies’ All My Sons at the London Apollo is not that production. It is, however, a superb performance. David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker are terrific as the two leads – Suchet a powerful presence, dominating both the stage and his entire family, whilst Wanamaker is quiet and understated, complicit in her husband’s terrible deceit and paradoxically destroyed by the knowledge whilst empowered against her husband’s patriarchy.

Miller’s play is uneven in pace and this is especially noticeable in the character of Chris. It is for this reason, perhaps, that Stephen Campbell Moore struggles: whilst he is strong in the final act, in the opening section he comes across as shallow and submissive when compared with his later moral absolutism. One interesting turn in Davies’ direction is just how manipulative Chris appears in the opening act as he tries to convince his father to let him marry Ann – there’s something of the petulant teenager here that lends Joe a greater degree of sympathy for the misplaced acts he commits in order to benefit his family. However, this doesn’t convince next to Chris’ certainty and strength at the play’s end. Sadly, Jemima Rooper is a rather flat Ann – little strength and little depth, she appears pragmatic rather than tortured.

The supporting cast are good, particularly Claire Hackett as the disappointed yet chiding Sue Bayliss. Her description of her husband as one whom, ‘every couple of years … meets a man and makes a statue out of him,’ has a real resonance within a play depicting a search for moral idealism yet one always hampered by human frailty.

Back in 2004 I saw All My Sons for the first time. It was a student production at the Oxford Playhouse and directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah. It was this production I referred to at the opening – utterly spectacular and one of the best productions of any play I’ve ever seen, far above and beyond what one would expect from student theatre. So whilst Howard Davies’ play is superb, whilst Suchet and Wanamaker are stronger than their Oxford counterparts (but only just and only to be expected) overall Davies’ production is only as good as that night back in 2004. Davies’ All My Sons is well worth seeing: it’s well done, well performed and a great night at the theatre. It just doesn’t redefine the play; it doesn’t beat that night back in 2004.

All My Sons is running at the Apollo Theatre in London until October 2010. More information is available here.

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