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Stage Dragon Review: All My Sons At The Electric Theatre

By Tricia Marcotti

Arthur Miller is in town at the Electric Theatre this week in a ‘five star’ performance of his play All My Sons.

A slice of post-Second World War American life, this play is on from April 11 to 14. The Guildburys, a local Surrey theatre company have once again chosen a well respected play to showcase their talents.

Their director and set designer, Robert Sheppard, has designed a set that allows his cast to easily move on and off stage without running into each other. From my background – I was born in North America – I recognized immediately back yards (gardens) I have visited when home there.

Robert has coached his actors well in the American accent. I closed my eyes to listen and was immediately hearing my father talk when I heard Mark Ashdown (as Joe Keller) speaking. Then I opened my eyes and he was there in person – Mark’s costume reflected clothes I had seen my father wear.

On the subject of costuming, the play is set in the late 1940s and all of the ladies were wearing proper stockings with their hair coiffed appropriately. It is attention to details like this that makes one know the production team care about their characters. When looking at Kate (Laura Sheppard) I felt I could have been looking at one of my aunts.

Part of assessing the performance is always how well one can hear the spoken word. Each actor enunciated his part well and gave each speech the correct amount of emotion.

Chris, Kate and Joe Keller talking in their back yard to George Deever. Photo credit Jonathan Constant.

Four families take part in this play. The Kellers, who have lived in the house and backyard of the set for all their lives; Dr and Mrs Bayliss, who have lived next door for only a few years after buying it from the Deevers, who moved to New York; and the Lubeys who live on the other side of the Kellers. The Baylisses (Jonathan Arundel and Jacqueline Tonkin) and Lubeys (Oli Bruce and Claire Racklyeft) move freely through the Kellers back yard, and have spirited conversations with everyone.

The Kellers had two sons, one of whom died during the Second World War. Ann Deever (played by Catherine Ashdown) had been engaged to him, but has been corresponding with their other son, Chris (played by Steve Graham), who has invited her for a visit.

Ann Deever (Catherine Ashdown) talking to Chris off camera (Steve Graham). Photo credit Jonathan Constant.

Mark Ashdown as Joe Keller was in turn blustering and yet endearing as a husband and father, but while he had come to terms with the loss of his son, he realized that his wife had not. Laura Sheppard as Kate Keller came across as a woman who coped with day to day business well, but was unable to cope with the loss of her son.

Joe talking to Chris (out of shot) while Kate and Ann listen. Photo credit Jonathan Constant.

Catherine Ashdown gave a credible performance as a young woman who wanted to move on with her life and felt that Chris was the man for her. Steve Graham as Chris was a young man who had seen the horrors of war, but he too, wanted to move on.

All of the families have secrets which are divulged throughout the play – the largest and most deeply hidden secret being divulged in the final moments.

While I was expecting the ending, I was still shocked when it came. Partly writing, partly execution!

Without spoiling the story, I can only say that I enjoyed this production enough to recommend it to all of Guildford. Five star theatre. It is a shame that it is only on until Saturday.

All My Sons is on at the Electric Theatre until Saturday, April 14. You can book your tickets online or call the box office on 01483 501200 from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday.

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