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New Era Players - All My Sons

6th to 8th June and 11th to 15th June 2019

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

America's sour pie

The price of the Dream laid bare in Miller's 1940s masterpiece

New Era Players: All My Sons, at New Era Theatre, from Thursday, June 6, to Saturday, June 8, and Tuesday, June 11, to Saturday, June 15

As the shadow of the Trump blimp shrinks away and the man himself goes back to the States to tweet about what a great success his visit was, how fitting that All My Sons, a diatribe against the American Dream and irresponsible businessmen everywhere, should be playing.

The President's recent UK visit marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the staging of All My Sons was as well-timed a memorial as any parade.

Arthur Miller's play, set in the garden of an all American home in 1947, centres around the Keller family. Their son, pilot Larry, never returned home from the Second World War and at first this seems to be a study of loss and family dynamics, not to mention a snapshot of US suburban life.

But as the drama unfolds, the past catches up with them and devastating secrets have life-changing repercussions.

The setting of the New Era Theatre, a little red 50-seater venue, was very appropriate for the play, the audience practically nosy neighbours leaning over the fence to take in the gossip. President Harry S Truman's glare from his picture in the Keller house ensuring we never quite feel at ease.

The cast had good synergy, their conviction as a small town community overriding the occasional missed cue or sound hiccup.

Peter Hendrickx was larger than life as businessman and patriarch Joe Keller. Although his accent was AWOL, he thoroughly won us over, making the later revelations uncomfortable to swallow.

There was a hint of a young Marlon Brando about Patrick Lintin, idealistic second son Chris Keller. When he appeared topless he drew whistles from an audience old enough to know better. Hats off to him and Pippa Higgins, as Ann Deever, for a well-executed stage kiss – the stumbling block of many an am dram show.

Higgins, meanwhile, delivered her part clearly and with an innocence that made her place in the final scenes all the more devastating. Special mention must go to Lisa Mounteer-Watson, who was grieving mother Kate Keller from start to finish. From her accent to her psychosomatic afflictions, her tantrums to her efforts to smooth things over, she was thoroughly convincing – a blazing comet of anxiety, denial and suppressed rage all tied up in the proper package of devoted housewife and mother.

A few moments stuck in my craw, such as the of-the-time sexism – Miller's little jokes about pretty young things brightening up the neighbourhood, as though they were floral displays, and the tired trope of nagging wives impeding their poor husbands' dreams, were anything but funny. In the Me Too era, they take on new meaning, making 1940s America's apple pie values sourer than ever.

There were some imaginative touches, notably the slides of Second World War pilots – a nod to the sons Joe finally takes responsibility for when he acknowledges the blood on the hands he used to build his empire.

The New Era Players could have been a little more confident at the start and director Keith Keer could have paced the final scenes better (the last lines felt a little rushed), but overall he and the cast are to be congratulated on a very gripping drama.

All My Sons was dynamic and thought-provoking, an interesting reflection both on the Second World War and the America we all have to live with today.