Hope you are well and the business is going okay and your family are-
Who are we kidding, Joe? You know I don’t care about any of those things and, as I sit in this barren expanse that acts as a prison cell, I wonder how you can cope.
Cope with emotions like the guilt, which stems from me taking the blame for both of our actions, and the relief that you can still see and touch your family daily, while my own children are disgusted by even hearing my name in passing.
How has this happened? How am I stuck in this endless, lonely hell while you- you can simply find distractions if you have a bad day and then wake up to a new, brighter day? How is it that you can do something as mundane as send and receive letters at your leisure when I have to have mine written at a certain time, using a certain amount of ink and paper, then having my letters checked and double checked and even then probably not sent.
After all, I am only a prisoner. How can a prisoner be expected to want privacy and a reprieve from boredom?
I am in this cell. Dying. It would be almost tolerable if I had family visits but you took care of that too, didn’t you? Complete isolation while I wait for death. I will probably not even live long enough to receive your reply to this letter and so I have some advice for you.
Tell your son the truth. Yes, it will hurt him to know his idyllic father is a dehumanised murderer, but I’m sure he’d rather it came from you than, say, your old business partner who might just write a letter to him telling him exactly what happened on the day that broken plane parts got shipped off to the front lines. Front lines which his brother was fighting on?
I may have lost my family physically but you are about to lose yours emotionally.
I am such a fan of good old justice systems, aren’t you?
Sent from North Carolina Prison.
Prisoner no. 436895
“And the plane flew down, down, down and into the ocean making a huge splash as it crashed but nothing remained of the plane and the pilot’s family were never to be acknowledged of his death again.”
“Larry! Oh Larry stop frightening your brother with these silly stories,” His mother turned to face his brother in a comforting matter “Chris don’t worry it was just a story!”
“I wasn’t scared!” Chris replied his lip quivering. The boy had slim figure and a strong American accent which was strange for his age. His mother – Kate – gave a small hint for him to move so Chris plodded away, his huge feet hitting the ground with a large thud.
“What do you want now Mother? I was only trying to be a good brother!”
“Hmmmm…” That was the only word Kate uttered as she ambled away humming a small tune to herself.
Larry was in deep thought when a ball hit his back. It was no ordinary ball. Covered in pink paint and varnish, the wooden ball glinted in the sun reflecting the light. He gazed at the beauty of the ball and he was caught in the moment.
“Excuse me,” a girl awoke him from his thoughts “you have my ball.”
“I…I…I ball have.”
“Yeah, can I have it back?”
“Sure,” he woke up from his daze “I’m Larry Keller, pleased to meet you. Who are you?”
“I’m Annie, I live across the road.” And with that and a flick of her blonde hair she jogged back to her house across the street.
All My Sons by Arthur Miller focuses on a family torn apart by the effects of war, and the cost of protecting your loved ones at the expense of others. Directed by Fiona Buffini for Nottingham Playhouse, this production was incredibly moving and thought-provoking.
The play is set in the Keller family backyard, in post-Second World War America, and is usually staged very naturalistically, mirroring a realistic house. However, in this production, the rear side of the house faced onto a simple bench and chair seating area on top of a curved floor section, drawing audience focus to the most unusual aspect of the set – a tilted tree with its roots showcased beneath the curved floor. Personally, I think the left hand side of the stage could have been utilised a little more, as the focus was consistently on the backyard; however, this could have been to suggest the insular nature of Joe Keller’s desire. I really enjoyed the contemporary/abstract style set design, and the beautiful tree represented lots of themes of the show, not only how the family tree had been destroyed, but also how the truth became unearthed as the play progressed.
The production flowed smoothly through scenes and every transition was incredibly seamless. Each individual cast member was wonderfully engaging; however, my favourite performances were from Sean Chapman (Joe Keller) and Cary Crankson (Chris Keller) as I felt every single word they delivered, deepening my understanding of their situation and drawing me in to the emotional aspect of the text.
I really enjoyed the restrained use of lighting and music – I felt it contributed to the minimal set design, allowing the audience to fill in the gaps for themselves. The technology that was used completely enhanced the production, as the lighting drew focus to the key areas, and the music perfectly set the mood, reminding the audience of the context.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this production because of the captivating performance given from every cast member, the fast-paced nature of the play and the symbolism conveyed through the set.
Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons at the Nottingham Playhouse couldn’t have come at a more poignant point in modern history. Trump’s idea of ‘The American Dream’ is just as significant as it was in late 1940s America. Americans had faced the Great Depression and The Second World War and there was a huge facade that if you worked hard then all the trappings of the wonderful freedom that the riches of America could give you could lead you to the road to happiness.
Arthur Miller, through his own experience of his father’s rags to riches story, knew the irony of this pretence of the ideal life all too well. Miller’s family came from humble beginnings and achieved financial success only to lose everything. The young Arthur had to adjust to working hard for his dollar, and he never forgot that, throughout all his plays.
The set in Fiona Buffini’s production is both unusual and powerful. The American Dream house is set back, allowing the actors to tell the story without being swamped by the naturalism of ‘The perfect yard’. The tree, which had been planted in the memory of their son Larry is uprooted and torn from the earth. This is wonderfully significant of hopes and dreams torn apart and truths unearthed. This aspect of unrealism worked so well with the normality of the play. If there was music, I didn’t notice it, instead I was drawn in to the powerful performances from a gifted cast. If I had to choose a performance that stood out for me, Eva-Jane Willis playing Ann Deever struck me as special from the moment she entered the stage. I immediately knew that she was hiding something, although the actress kept me guessing and intrigued throughout, she gave a really compelling performance, as did the entire cast.
Please go and see this wonderful play, beautifully acted and frighteningly just as relevant today.
All Our Sons
The Nottingham Playhouse’s take on the classic Arthur Miller play All My Sons will definitely be receiving high praise from myself and of many others who were present on the 10th October 2017. For those that are aware of any of Miller’s plays, they will also be aware of his desire to demonstrate how tragedies can happen to a common man.
This tragedy consists of a family who seem to be stuck in the past, not able to move on since the passing of their beloved son and brother, Larry, who went missing during World War II.
After three years, Kate Keller (mother) still clings to the hope that her son is still alive, as he was never officially pronounced dead. However, conflict arises when Joe Keller, husband to Kate and father, and Chris Keller (son) have come to the conclusion that hoping for the return of Larry is useless, and only causes more pain for Kate. Chris’s dire wish is for his mother to give up all hope, as he wishes to marry Larry’s former fiancé. Things are not all what they seem to be within the Keller household – secrets begin to unfold throughout the play.
Throughout the entire performance, the quality of acting remained at a very high standard, with barely anything for me to fault. The thrilling action of the tragedy had the audience members totally hooked. We experienced shock as the characters unfold before our eyes, creating a sense of belonging to the family, as if we, the audience, were part of the family on stage, we were all Kate and Joe’s sons and daughters.
The simplicity of the set and the lack of scenery changes made it easier to capture the essence of the plot and help us understand the themes that Miller wanted to communicate to the audience: family, betrayal, heart break, forbidden love. The ‘stripped back’ sense of the play heightened the concentration on dialogue, meaning the audience were able to understand and keep track of what was happening.
The play was well cast, every actor gave us a stunning performance that continued throughout the duration of the play. The actor that stood out to me was Cary Crankson (Chris Keller). His vocal changes were memorable, the constant changes in voice meant the audience were able to easily decipher the emotion behind his character. When paired with his great use of body language, it was brutally obvious what the character of Chris was feeling. One particular moment I enjoyed was how physically ‘closed off’ Chris became as a shocking secret bubbled to the surface, the whole demeanour of his character changed so that the audience could fully understand the situation and for the effect it had on his character to become obvious.
After witnessing the simplistic, yet genius techniques that were showcased in this production, I would highly recommend anyone with the slightest interest to go and see this play. A great night out, as well as a memorable production.
Sucked in by the Story
Fiona Buffini’s captivating production of Arthur Miller’s, All My Sons takes to the Nottingham Playhouse stage this month and I would highly recommend it.
It is set in 1940s suburban America where a broken family battles with the loss of a son. When an old neighbour comes to visit, dark secrets from the past come to light once more.
I must admit I did not expect to enjoy this play from the opening 10 or 20 minutes, where the characters are established as well as the very naturalistic style. I usually prefer more experimental theatre, but it wasn’t long before I became completely engrossed in the story and the characters of this world. It took me on a very emotional journey and my perceptions of the characters were flipped back and forth throughout.
The success of this production lies in the performance of the actors. They all appeared truly authentic and effective at keeping me fully engaged without any fancy set changes or explosive music. Sean Chapman as Joe Kelly especially stood out to me as delivering a perfect portrayal of his character. Caroline Loncq as Kate Keller and Eva-Jane Willis as Ann Deever were also exceptional in this production, I empathised deeply with each of their pain.
The designer, Dorrie Scott and lighting designer Ian Scott did an amazing job working together to create a picture of “stripped back” suburbia, given an eerie edge by the shadowy lighting that really added to the atmosphere. The tree in their garden appeared to have been ripped from the earth with roots visible beneath, it looked beautiful on stage and was very symbolic in the production. I really liked the non-traditional bleak stage space Scott created as it allowed a focus on the actor’s moving performances and heightened the uneasy atmosphere.
Overall I would recommend this play to an over 15 audience as it is littered with dark themes showing the tragedy of the working man with a shocking twist in the final moments. It was absorbing, entertaining and overall a very good play.
All my sons – All of my applause
When we walked out of the theatre late in the evening, passing by the glittering lights and obnoxious sounds of late Nottingham, we had a lot of time to think. To think and to decide. It’s good to have some time to think after a play like this.
Because it left me speechless.
The day after, sitting around a small table at college, we did think of a word. Harrowing, and I think that word is rather apt. I’m not going to dance around it, this play is amazing. There wasn’t a single aspect I disliked and yet, it was so much different from the other plays for which I held a similar attitude. Those other plays – Sleuth and Noises Off – were enjoyable because they made me laugh. This play was good because it made me feel. Feel what, exactly? I’m still not quite sure.
If there were two things that stood out amidst everything else, it’s the acting and the set design.
And my god. The acting was incredible. They were interesting to listen to, their voices were distinct and their arcs were slow and steady and well-paced. The entire play is something like three different scenes, and one of the transitions was just the interval. It really feels like you are watching the lives of these people evolve before you (I know I haven’t brought up the story but I refuse to spoil it for anyone). In fact, the most dramatic shift in the perspective of any character is talked about for twenty minutes before he even walks back on stage. It’s incredibly powerful, and it makes it feel entirely real.
While the set seems at first generic, it has a very small and very interesting quirk. The set curves. On one side, there is a tree. Now imagine the wind partially blowing over the said tree, so that it tilts on its side with all the roots visible, but it still stands. That’s the set. It’s basic, it doesn’t distract you, and yet it’s so interesting to look at.
That’s really all there is to say. Perhaps I might have preferred it if they had used the stage design to allow for more physicality, but at the risk of making it any different, I wouldn’t change anything about it, for fear of making it any less astounding than it already is.
You would have thought..
You would have thought a father would tell the truth,
Especially for family.
The group that you can trust with life.
No not now, but you would have thought so.
You would have thought that the precision and intricacy would be crucial,
And to think so would be correct.
One lazy mistake could cost lives.
Lives of anyone, even family.
No one would do that, you would have thought.
All can change through one decision.
After that decision, you are no longer in control of what happens.
Life, death, no control.
You would have thought that a father would protect the family from his wrong-doings, but not
Not now when people are dead.
Not now when his son is dead.
You would have thought the guilt would take hold,
You would have thought…