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All My Sons review at Nottingham Playhouse – ‘an outstanding performance’

Cary Crankson and Sean Chapman in All My Sons at Nottingham Playhouse. Photo: Robert Day Cary Crankson and Sean Chapman in All My Sons at Nottingham Playhouse. Photo: Robert Day
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The election of President Trump prompted Fiona Buffini to stage Arthur Miller’s ruthless dismantling of the American Dream.

It’s an intense and finely honed production with an inspired piece of casting in Sean Chapman as the self-made businessman, Joe Keller. He is so easy and comfortable in his skin, his clothes, his manner. If there were no dialogue, we’d still know that this was a man who had grafted and that his son, Chris (Cary Crankson), in his neatly pressed flannels, was a man who had not.

As the confrontations get fiercer and the truth comes out about Joe’s wartime guilt and the fate of the missing son, Chapman’s performance moves up gear after gear until the terrible end.

These are strongly drawn characters, particularly Joe’s wife, Kate, played with insight by Caroline Loncq. There’s a hard shell there that takes some breaking. Eva-Jane Willis gives a beautifully natural performance as Ann Deever, glamorous in scarlet and taking the initiative with the awkward Chris. The great topical theme of self–interest versus the common good doesn’t need any labouring. It’s evident in who these people are and how they interact.

It has its lighter moments in the lazy family banter, the comings-and-goings of the yard and the unseen life of the house – unlit until the final, dramatic moment. The storm-stricken and uprooted apple tree is the centrepiece of Dorrie Scott’s minimal set, jutting out at a right-angle on the sweep of an upward curve. Altogether a very fine piece of theatre.

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Powerful Arthur Miller revival featuring an outstanding performance from Sean Chapman