Review: All My Sons, Old Vic

Some titanic acting performances from Sally Field, Bill Pullman and Colin Morgan in this superb All My Sons at the Old Vic Theatre

“We all got hit by the same lightning”

You do wonder how new playwrights are ever going to get a look-in when Arthur Miller can dominate London theatres without it even being a significant anniversary year for him. That said, the Old Vic’s second Miller in a row sees a Headlong co-production of All My Sons (with Death of a Salesman imminent at the Young Vic, he’ll have the run of The Cut) that gives an enviable target to aim for.

I’ve seen a handful of All My Sons since starting the blog, from the sublime and superb to the somewhat less impressive, and it is remarkable how it stands as a play that really needs little doing to it for its quality to shine through. And so it is with Jeremy Herrin’s production here, a relatively straightforward one for Headlong all told, but all the more effective for it.

Max Jones’ design gives us the Kellers’ humble home simply, their backyard spread out over the stage and so it is the beauty of Richard Howell’s lighting that really stands out. Dappled sunlight turns to a tender dusk but as the weight of the play’s tragedy starts to assert itself, shadows start to lengthen and the move into punishing darkness characterises the severity of this long night.

And free from distractions, superlative unaffected acting fills the gap in this dissection of a shattered American Dream. Sally Field is everything you’d hope for and more as matriarch Kate and Bill Pullman is excellent as the haunted Joe. Both made old too soon by the lies they’ve internalised, both unable to escape the hollowness of their picture-perfect lives and the grief they long to hide. 

Colin Morgan impresses too up against these US heavyweights, his wirily intense Chris tearing hungrily at a truth he too can scarcely acknowledge and his connection with Pullman is superb, as they both struggle with emotional articulacy, searching for the soothing power and consolation of a hug but never quite getting there. An All My Sons that truly benefits from its straightforwardness. 

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
All My Sons is booking at the Old Vic Theatre until 8th June

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