Written by Penelope
Secrets. All families have them. Some are trivial, others are monumental. Arthur Miller's All My Sons is about secrets. Joe (David Suchet) is accused of supplying WW2 fighter planes with defective parts, leading to the deaths of 21 men. His oldest son Larry, a pilot, is missing, thought to be dead but no body has been found. His wife Kate (Zoe Wanamaker) is troubled, there are many references to her mental fragility and she won't accept Larry's death. Their other son Chris has meanwhile taken up with Larry's former sweetheart and wants to marry her. It's against this backdrop that an enormous secret is revealed as the atmosphere gradually builds to the denouement.
The play is set in an unspecified small town in America. The set is gorgeous, we're on the back porch of a family home with weeping willows, ferns and grass. The neighbours are all friendly and pop back and forth to share a story or ask a favour. On the surface it seems congenial and David Suchet chuckles, tells anecdotes and looks relaxed as he reads the Sunday papers. But when Chris brings home his elder brother's girlfriend, Ann, things start to unravel. Her father was Joe's business partner and he's in prison, found guilty of supplying the faulty parts while Joe's free. Suchet and Wanamaker are both fabulous, as you expect. Suchet is a small man, but has a large presence on stage. He's light on his feet and yet he has gravitas too. You even manage to forget Hercule Poirot. All the cast are English but their American accents don't slip. Chris is played by Stephen Campbell Moore and he is a revelation - he's trying to keep everything in balance, everyone happy and also start a life of his own with Ann. He tries to look on the bright side of everything so when the secrets start to come out, Campbell Moore has to completely change tone and capture that feeling when you realise everything you took for granted, your foundations, are no longer there. It's good acting.
The secrets: Joe knew the parts were faulty but supplied them anyway and let Ann's father go to jail. And Larry realised, so he committed suicide rather than deal with it. Kate knows the first secret, but not the second. Zoe Wanamaker's anguish when it's revealed is raw and startling. Suchet suddenly starts to look like a small, shattered old man. Chris's world falls apart. The cast manage all of this without resorting to melodrama. Arthur Miller wrote the play in 1947 and while some of the surrounding attitudes of the play seem a little dated, this is a great production which still has something to say to a modern audience about families, lies, secrets and trying to do the right thing.