All My Sons, Headgate Theatre, Colchester

One of Arthur Miller’s classic plays, it takes a brave theatre group to tackle the huge themes and emotional intensity of All My Sons.

Luckily, Colchester Theatre Group has that bravery, and this production, overall, captures the tragedy well. Local business man, Joe Keller, manufactured cylinder lids for airplanes during the war, and his business partner, Steve, is jailed for supplying cracked cylinders that led to airplanes crashing and the death of pilots.

But everyone suspects it was Joe’s fault, and also the Keller’s son, Larry, went missing, presumed dead, but Kate, Joe’s wife, still believes he will come home. Their other son, Chris, wishes to propose to Anne, Steve’s daughter.

Miller plants his bombs in Act One, and detonates them as the play progresses, when Joe’s lie is exposed and truths revealed. As Joe Keller, Malcolm Kimmance captures the denial of the character well, he is everyone’s friend at the start of the play, still respected, but wrapped in denial of what he did and the fact that it is quietly destroying his wife, Kate, a fine performance by Sara Carr.

Matthew Hankin is a strong, brooding, presence as Chris, matched by Jemma Younger’s passionate Ann.

Director Sue Atkin has crafted a good production, but the pace was slow until the major dramatic events happened. This is due, in part, to the huge amount of exposition required in Act One, but it feels like the set pieces were concentrated on more than the building blocks. It’s not until the arrival of Steve’s son George, a hugely energetic and convincing performance by Aaron Bowater, that the play really kicked into life, and subsequent shocks and revelations were handled superbly. There was also a very good performance by Nick Mayes as the neighbour Jim; I’d like to see more of this actor.

Performed on a beautiful set by Elaine Lloyd and company, this was a production that needed a stronger journey towards its tragedy, but each actor fully understood the emotional intensity of each part.