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If you want to sink your teeth into a story of real depth All My Sons at the Apollo Theatre could be just what you’re looking for.
I saw this play last night and bawled my eyes out (there, I said it!). There are many light-hearted moments throughout but there is a constant underlying tension that bubbles beneath the surface in this bleak yet touching post-World War II story. The script, infused with this tension, encourages the audience to investigate the dark mysteries behind the perfect American family seen on stage.
The cast are no strangers to the stage and screen. Acting-royalty David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker disappear expertly behind the characters of Joe and Kate Keller and are joined by a talented cast who transform into their close friends and family.
This intimate play is set in the mid-west of the USA and tells the intriguing story of the Keller family and their once-neighbours, the Deevers. Beneath the charm of their American 1940s smiles and laughter lies a stomach-wrenching truth that slowly makes its way to the surface. It is this constant balance between light and dark that holds our attention.
I won’t give away too much, but there were shrieks and gasps from even the back rows of the theatre when the dark truth bubbled to the surface and the play ended. These audible shocks might even have come from Richard E Grant or Mrs Laurence Olivier (Joan Plowright) who we had spotted during the interval!
Like many new productions, the actors could do with a few more performances to really settle in. The large house on set, for example, feels less like an old family home and more like a new prop to which the actors aren’t completely familiar. We don’t get a true sense that this is their home and has been for over 20 years. Perhaps more minor practical interactions with the house (eg. uprooting a weed or checking a wood panel) rather than gazing off into the sunset in a nostalgic stupor would help.
The play is filled with eye-opening moments of pure agony, family love, blind responsibility and gut-twisting realisation that keep the cast and audience enthralled.
I’d gladly watch it again.
All My Sons plays at the Apollo Theatre until 11 September 2010