All My Sons (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

allmysonsVenue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Nov 1 – Dec 1, 2013
Playwright: Arthur Miller
Director: Iain Sinclair
Actors: Toni Scanlan, Marshall Napier, Andrew Henry, Anthony Gooley, Ann Deever
Image by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
All My Sons is a lesser known Arthur Miller work, but the decision to produce it today is entirely appropriate. One of its central themes is the relationship between war and commerce, which is a subject of interest for contemporary audiences in today’s socio-political climate. The idea of businesses profiteering from war deaths is a controversial one, and when intertwined with familial discord, the result is surprisingly explosive.

Certainly, Iain Sinclair’s direction is keen for the play to erupt at every available opportunity. Elements of Greek tragedy are characteristic of this work, and Sinclair boldly employs them to enthral and overcome his audience. His care in creating moments of silences before storms, makes for a plot that is seriously exciting. Even though the show is essentially a family drama, this is edge of the seat stuff. The nature of the story is dark and heavy, with deaths, lies and betrayals lurking at every corner, but Sinclair expertly balances the gravity inherent in Miller’s writing with great surges of energy, ensuring that emotional punches are all hits and no misses. It is noteworthy also that sound design by Nate Edmondson is subtle and indispensably effective.

Acting is excellent throughout. The sense of time and space (mid-west USA in the 1940s) is accurately and faithfully re-created by the entire cast. Andrew Henry’s high octane outbursts are crucial to the climax of the play and he delivers them with no reservation. Anthony Gooley plays a supporting role but his portrayal of a man bordering on insanity is fascinating. He brings a lot of colour and drama to the show, and the intensity in his work is truly remarkable. The production however, is dominated by Toni Scanlan who turns in an astounding performance as Kate Keller. The range of emotions she portrays is beyond impressive. This actor owns the show’s funniest and saddest moments, and her depiction of grief and disintegration is unforgettable. The psychological foundation in her characterisation is solid and crystal clear, and she defines the play’s other characters for the audience as much as she does her own.

Darlinghurst Theatre’s production of All My Sons validates the timelessness of Miller’s writing. Other recent examples have demonstrated that current interpretations do not always work, but under Sinclair’s directorship, we have a show that speaks to us deeply, perhaps even more so than most new works from the twenty-first century.