All My Sons | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft – Eryn Jean Norvill and Robyn Nevin. Cover – John Howard and Chris Ryan. Photos – Zan Wimberley

“I'm his father, and he's my son, and if there's something bigger than that I'll put a bullet in my head.” says Joe Keller, ominously, in Arthur Miller's All My Sons.

Omens and portents ripple through this play, which begins with the destruction of a tree planted in memory of Joe's eldest son, Larry, an airman missing in action for the past number of years, believed killed by all except his mother, Kate, who has embraced astrology to bolster her neurotic denial that her first born is dead.

The denial is not just the primal response of confronting the death of a child but a compound response that the cause may be attributed to the father, her husband, Joe.

Joe is a pillar of the community and the military industrial complex, a killer with impunity, acquitted of manufacturing faulty aircraft equipment during the war while his business partner and neighbour was found guilty and languishes in prison, a pariah.

Joe's surviving son, Chris, is now the sole heir to his manufacturing empire, and intends to marry his brother's ex-girlfriend, Joe's convicted partner's daughter.

Paternal guilt, perjury, portent and the pressure of empire building are all fed into the crucible of this powerful narrative and Kip William's production for Sydney Theatre Company sets the ingredients to simmer, then boil, to create a conflagration of past and present.

Alice Babidge's set of a suburban backyard with it solitary forlorn and fallen tree backgrounded by a cookie cutter house facade is splendidly and simply evocative of the veneer that covers the barrenness of material gain based on blood money.

John Howard plays Joe as a big, bluff, barefooted bonhomie, happy to engage and encourage the imagination of neighbourhood kid, Bert, and abetting the union of Chris and Ann, seeing it as some sort of building broken bridges, and an atonement for past sins.

Robyn Nevin is superb as the emotionally conflicted Kate, her inherent common sense confounded by her double denial of Larry's death and Joe's complicity in it. Her flinty refusal of blessing Chris and Ann's nuptials and her irrational adherence to astrology are a self preservation safeguard against capitulation to unpalatable truths.

Chris Ryan as the conscientious Chris nuances the hope of a shiny new world with the guilt of having survived the war and Eryn Jean Norvill is gorgeous as Ann, the girl next door all grown up to be glorious and glamorous, symbol of the bright flesh and blood future  that will eclipse the drab, dark and deathly recent past.

Affirming the adage that there are no small roles, the supporting cast of Anita Hegh, Bert Labonte, John Leary, Josh McConville, Contessa Treffone, and, alternately as Bert, Toby Challenor and Jack Ruwald, each gives finely tempered texture to the production and the craggy candour of Miller's majestic dialogue.

Sydney Theatre Company presents
by Arthur Miller

Director Kip Williams

Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Dates: 4 June – 9 July 2016
Tickets: $104 – $78
Bookings: 02 9250 1777 |

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