All My Sons
The Old Vic, London Until Jun 8, 2hrs 35mins
Two American oldsters from the movies, Sally Field and Bill Pullman, along with TV’s young Victoria, Jenna Coleman, all star in this, Arthur Miller’s first hit in 1947. It’s a really meaty play about a horrendous cover-up.
You can almost hear the flapping of birds coming home to roost.
Bill Pullman plays Joe Keller, a factory owner, reading the paper in the garden of his leafy suburban home. But genial old Joe, despite what he tells himself, is in effect a mass murderer.
Chris (Colin Morgan), the Kellers’ surviving son, has brought his brother’s girlfriend, Ann (Jenna Coleman) home to propose to her (Starring alongside Sally Field and Oliver Johnstone)
During the war he knowingly supplied the US military with defective cylinder heads for their P-40 fighter planes, resulting in the death of 21 pilots. He let his business partner take the rap and go to jail.
But Joe’s sweetly smiling neighbours all know who was really to blame.
Indoors, his insomniac wife Kate (Sally Field) is still waiting for the return of their pilot son Larry, who went missing in action three years before. She is utterly unable to accept his death, because if she did she’d also have to accept that her own husband might have killed him.
Joe Keller’s (Bill Pullman) insomniac wife Kate (Sally Field) is still waiting for the return of their pilot son Larry, who went missing in action three years before
The action is set on the day Chris, the Kellers’ idealistic surviving son, has brought his brother’s girlfriend, Ann (daughter of Joe’s jailed partner) home to propose to her. You can imagine what Mrs Keller thinks of that idea.
Ann is a bright, girl-next-door type, very well played by Coleman, who looks curiously like a young Sally Field.
IT’S A FACT
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was the playwright’s final try at writing a hit. If it failed, he said, he would ‘find some other line of work’.
Colin Morgan is terrific in the part of Chris, burning with a righteous fire as his father’s lies all start to peel away. Homing like a missile inexorably towards the Keller family is Ann’s brother (a fervid Oliver Johnstone), who has woken up late to their father’s innocence and is seeking retribution.
The plot occasionally clunks but performances match the depth of the play. Sally Field’s excellent Kate is visibly eroded by the lie she’s living. Behind Pullman’s furtive, slitted eyes is a man capable of anything.
Miller writes these people as if he knows them all personally. But this family tragedy also rams home the wider truth that war always means fat profits. It’s that moral obscenity that makes this riveting play tick like a bomb.
Director Jeremy Herrin makes the most of a top-notch cast.
Donmar Warehouse, London Until Jun 8, 2hrs 40mins
What a way to bow out. Josie Rourke’s farewell production at the Donmar Warehouse boasts Anne-Marie Duff as Charity Hope Valentine, the New York nightclub hostess (Shirley MacLaine in the film) whose love life this 1966 musical chronicles.
The score is by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon. The signature tune is Big Spender – to which one can only say, ‘Hey’. Among the treats are Wayne McGregor’s fresh choreography.
Josie Rourke’s farewell production at the Donmar Warehouse boasts Anne-Marie Duff as Charity Hope Valentine, the New York nightclub hostess
With Andy Warhol wigs and a set made of Bacofoil, the Sixties design (by Robert Jones) is a hoot.
Charity – who the show makes clear is not on the game – is seeking truer love than the phoney stuff she sells to the guys at the club. The book is unashamedly sentimental but it’s shot through with Simon’s brilliant humour.
As one of the club girls says, ‘We don’t dance, we defend ourselves to music.’
Charity – who the show makes clear is not on the game – is seeking truer love than the phoney stuff she sells to the guys at the club
Duff is beautiful and beaming with romantic optimism even as her vulnerable heart is stomped on by men. There’s a date with a film star who oozes Latin swank (Martin Marquez, terrific); and disaster comes in the form of nerdy Oscar, her fleeing fiancé, nicely played by Arthur Darvill.
The opening night featured a truly groovy performance by Adrian Lester (other guests will appear on a rota) in the flower-power number, Rhythm Of Life. But it’s the star role on which this show stands — and Duff’s Charity is a gift.
Amélie Watermill Theatre, Newbury
Until May 18; touring until Oct 19, 2hrs 30mins
Far from inflicting an attack of the cutes, this British premiere of the musical of the whimsical 2001 French film proves more than tolerable. In the title role that made Audrey Tautou a star, French-Canadian actress Audrey Brisson is wide-eyed and convincing as the under-loved girl in a fairy-tale Paris.
With music and lyrics by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen, the score with accordion and strings is as French as a string of onions.
In the title role that made Audrey Tautou a star, French-Canadian actress Audrey Brisson is wide-eyed and convincing as the under-loved girl in a fairy-tale Paris
Waitress Amélie lives in a cylindrical eyrie over a brilliant set of transforming props (by Madeleine Girling). Characters include an artist with a thing about Renoir (Johnson Willis), an ace Elton John impressionist (Caolan McCarthy), Amélie’s grieving father (Jez Unwin) and a handsome chap called Nico who steals her heart.
Michael Fentiman’s production is imaginative, but the 24 rather indifferent songs don’t warrant the expansion of an already long film.
Lyric Hammersmith Until May 18, 1hr 20mins
Horror doesn’t always work in theatre – but Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, both nerdy fans of the genre, nailed it with this anthology show when it was first seen at the Lyric almost a decade ago.
Ghost Stories transferred to the West End and was made into a film. The key to its success? It is actually jump-in-your-seat scary.
Three separate stories of supernatural phenomena are recounted by a gregarious, seemingly rational academic (Simon Lipkin, excellent) who specialises in parapsychology, cheerfully set on persuading us that glimpses of ghosts usually have their basis in our own guilty consciences.
Each scene (like the ghost story starring Garry Cooper) builds up from reported events to fully realised horror, complete with stage effects and shock reveals
Each scene builds up from reported events to fully realised horror, complete with stage effects and shock reveals (mostly scary, occasionally extremely silly). But is the professor hiding his own dark secret?
Directed by Nyman, Dyson and Sean Holmes, this production has a gleefully sustained tension and creepy atmosphere throughout, with the show working theatre’s potential for collectively held breath and our desire for communal frights – while also punctuating it with moments of releasing humour.
Nick Manning’s sound design does a lot of the work: thrown sounds and ear-shreddingly loud effects in sudden blackouts may be subtle as the proverbial sledgehammer – but they also knock you sideways.