In All My Sons that happy family is the Kellers: Kate (Zoe Wanamaker) factory owning husband Joe (David Suchet) and working-for-Dad son Chris (Stephen Campbell Moore) whom all live in their nice house with porch and garden and neighbours that pop by. But this is Miller.
The play starts with a storm in which a tree - a memorial to second son Larry who is missing, presumed dead, in the war - is blown down and the calm that follows the next day is inevitably temporary. Chris has invited Ann (Jemima Rooper), Larry's former girlfriend to stay as he intends to propose but is worried what his mother will think. Kate clings on to the hope that Larry is still alive.
But Ann brings with her more than a stirring of the memories of Larry as old wounds of a conflict between the two families are opened. Ann's father was in business with Joe but is in prison for selling defective airplane parts to the air force during the war which resulted in 21 pilots dying.
Suchet is superb as the affable and ever-jolly Joe who is slowly forced to confront the past, matched only by Wanamaker who wrings every last ounce of emotion out of the audience as the grieving parent who has her own past to face up to.
Indeed the whole cast gave faultless performances under the superb direction of Howard Davies.
Plaudits too for William Dudley's stage design which set all the action in the Kellers back garden complete with porch, overhanging trees and lawn (yes real grass).
What else can I say about a perfect production that had the audience transfixed and then cheering and on its feet at the end?
RSR 5/5 and definitely a contender for the top three plays of the year. You can get a full round up other reviews over at UpTheWestEnd.com which, based on all the reviews has given it a 'hot' rating. Booking to October 2, I suggest selling your grandmother.
Picture of Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet by Tristram Kenton
RS/BW - 6DS
Thought this was going to involve a bit of digging around until I spotted that Paul Groothuis who was responsible for the amazing storm, air craft noises and cars drawing up among other sound jiggery pokery also worked his magic on His Dark Materials which regular readers of this little tic of mine will know saw a young Mr Whishaw take a small part at the start of his career.
I'm sure there are others if I worked at them as Zoe Wanamaker and at least three other members of the cast have done plays at the National but that will do for now unless someone else would like to oblige?