All My Sons (2015)

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on ALL MY SONS at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 5.9.15.
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3 stars *** 

BEST KNOWN FOR TOURING workmanlike but unremarkable revivals to a wide range of venues across Scotland, Michael Emans’s Rapture Theatre raised a few eyebrows, last year, when it was promoted to the ranks of Creative Scotland’s regularly funded organisations, over the heads of one or two companies producing far more exciting, internationally-acclaimed work.

Whatever the reservations about that decision, though, no-one could have wished Rapture Theatre the kind of bad luck which haunted the premier, this week, of its first large-scale touring production under the new funding deal. When Emans’s production of All My Sons opened at the Theatre Royal on Wednesday night, it was not only making do without its lead actor, Paul Shelley – who was to have played the troubled patriarch Joe Keller, and was replaced after a last-minute illness by company member David Tarkenter – but had to face a second crisis when Trudie Goodwin, playing Joe’s wife, keeled over and fainted during her biggest second-act scene; the curtain had to be lowered for ten minutes while she recovered.

So if Rapture’s version of All My Sons – the first of two autumn productions designed to mark Arthur Miller’s centenary – fails to scale any great heights of interpretation or originality, it certainly deserves recognition for dogged professionalism in the face of adversity. Miller’s great 1947 play never loses relevance, of course. Its central conflict between Joe Keller – who has saved his business by shipping out defective aircraft cylinder heads at the height of the war, costing the lives of 21 young airmen – and his younger son Chris, an idealistic ex-army man, is one that still haunts western society, as the claims of “business” continue to trump those of basic humanity and solidarity.

In Emans’s production – staged on an attractive back-yard set by Neil Murray that evokes the comfort of the Kellers’ middle-class Ohio life – Chris is played with great insight and commitment by Robert Jack, with David Tarkenter stepping up effectively to the role of Joe Keller. And if this is the kind of production where individual performances have to find their own way, rather than being swept along by the production’s own purpose and dynamic, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this earnest and heartfelt staging of one of the greatest plays of the 20th century; with a fine family storyline that stlll draws gasps of shock and recognition, as Miller’s mighty plot unfolds, to its tragic end.

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, final performances today. Then on tour to Inverness, Kirkcaldy and Stirling, and at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 21-26 September.

ENDS ENDS

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