All My Sons
By Arthur Miller
Royal Exchange Theatre, 1 October 2013
There is a finely wrought grandeur to Miller’s play but the odd contrivance too.
The grandeur arises from what Peter Singer has famously called the expanding circle: a man, Joe Keller (a classy performance by Don Warrington), is made to see that the We includes not just his family but the whole of humanity. It is a slow realisation but when it hits him it hits hard. He is blown away.
As for contrivance, one could point to the well-worn dramatic device of the secret letter containing heady, crucial gen. Here it is written by someone immediately before their death. Also, one could take away the whole horoscope shtick (and Frank and his wife altogether) and the play would by no means be lessened.
What makes it such an engrossing play overall even so, and one certainly well worth seeing, is that pretty much all the principal characters change in significant ways. They reveal themselves, whether for better or worse. Some, we discover, seek truth, others protection or self-advancement. No one gets away scot-free; which is what we like, let’s face it.
All My Sons is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 26 October, further details can be found here.