All My Sons

The high intensity of this faintly simian production makes ABI BENNETT cry. In a good way.

Abi Bennett ADC theatre All My Sons Arthur Miller Ben Kavanagh Will Attenborough

ADC Theatre, 10th-14th May, 7.45pm, £6-10

Directed by Niall Wilson


Continuing recent ADC practice of taking West End hits and trying to copy their success (Posh, Spring Awakening, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), we now have All My Sons following hot on the heels of David Suchet’s critically-acclaimed run at the Apollo. However, this production’s high standards justify what has been notably described as the ADC’s ‘insidious aping’.

Overall the acting was of an incredibly high level; a fellow theatre-goer compared it favourably to the aforementioned Apollo run. Ben Kavanagh made a surprisingly convincing old man, his mannerisms and voice perfectly pitched. His playfulness with Bert was beautiful to watch, as was his nuanced relationship with his son.

However, Kavanagh’s Joe lacked the menace to justify some plot turns: George’s seeming reversal when Joe appears on stage doesn’t make sense unless Joe has a certain amount of threatening power, which Kavanagh’s stature didn’t provide.

But this is nit-picking; in student drama it would be impossible to find an actor with Kavanagh’s talent combined with the physical stature necessary to pull off Joe Keller fully. The same problem haunted Will Chappel’s George; he was too small and young, so comments about his ‘greying hair’ fell flat.

Photographs by Milla Basma

The undoubted star of the show was Will Attenborough as Chris, charting his character’s development from a bumbling, naïve youth, to a man whose entire world was been blown apart in a single day. He was the most adept at handling the emotional changes demanded of him, so his final moments were devastating. I, for one, cried my eyes out.

However, standard of acting was not sustained by some of the supporting characters. Although I enjoyed Holly Olivia Braine’s bitchy neighbour, others were rather wooden, and disproportionately spoiled the overall feel of the play.

I can understand what they were trying to do with the set, but it didn’t work visually, ultimately feeling incomplete and unloved. The sparseness looked shoddy rather than purposeful, and served as a constant reminder that this was only student drama. Otherwise, some of the performances could have easily been seen on a national stage.

My heart sank when I walked into the auditorium to be confronted by cheap garden chairs and an incongruous broken tree. Luckily, this shoddiness did not extend to the costumes, which were beautifully realised – especially the men’s. The benefit of a play whose action is confined to the space of twenty-four hours is that it makes costumes much easier, and they capitalised on this, augmenting the realism which pervaded the stage.

For a first night this was an incredibly polished, relaxed performance; and one which can only improve in the next few days. If you can take the time from your busy revision facebook schedules, I would urge you to head down to the ADC for a night of intense emotion and beautiful acting. That is if you aren’t offended by budget garden furniture and a half-made house.