Digital theatre review: All My Sons (David Suchet)
Ivan Radford | On 21, May 2020
“I never saw you as a man. I saw you as my father,” Chris (Stephen Campbell Moore) tells his dad, Joe (David Suchet), in All My Sons. Arthur Miller’s 1947 play is a story of fathers and sons – or, more to the point, of perception and inheritance, of legacies handed down through generations, of delusion passing on the baton to unflinching reality.
Joe Keller is a businessman who has enjoyed success in life – both personally and professionally. With his wife, Kate (Zoe Wanamaker) and his established empire, he’s a paragon of the American Dream. He sits on his porch and in his backyard, joking with his next door neighbours and looking at the newspaper. He’s built something he can support Kate with today, and leave to Chris tomorrow.
It’s a family unit tinged by tragedy, though, with his other son, Larry, having passed away in the war. Or did he? Kate isn’t convinced and lives in hope that he’s still alive, even as Chris dates Larry’s former fiancee, Ann, and plans to wed him. Ann’s family, though, aren’t sure about the match, as Joe is dogged by the suspicion that he was responsible for issuing defective parts to the military during the war, leading to planes crashing and killing loads of troops.
Whether it’s true or not is the ticking time bomb underneath the whole play, but what matters most is that Joe insists it isn’t – it doesn’t gel with the image of himself he portrays to others and, well, to himself. Hiding behind his smile and his pipe, he prides himself on his love for his family, even as it threatens to take priority over his patriotic love for his country.
Kate, too, is living a false idea that doesn’t get gel with the truth, and Suchet and Wanamaker are superb at conveying that self-deception, allowing their facades to crumble ever so slightly, ever so slowly over three gripping acts. Together with Campbell Moore’s intense supporting presence, their trio of excellent performances fuel a powerful, poignant drama about social responsibility and personal greed, one that asks not only how we see each other, but how we see ourselves.
All My Sons is available to watch on Digital Theatre as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription – or to rent from £7.99.