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A very powerful play. Strong performances throughout. There was a scene with Sally Field where she was pleading with her son and her voice reverberated between the sentences. You could feel her pain. Nice to see Bill Pullman on stage. Set was simple, and perfect.
“Hollywood veterans Pullman and Field, 65 and 72 respectively, creep up and grab the audience by the jugular in Herrin’s excellent production of Miller’s first masterpiece.”
“In an era of fake news and moral uncertainty, this fine production of Arthur Miller’s play rings as true as ever.”
America, 1947. Despite hard choices and even harder knocks, Joe and Kate Keller are a success story. They have built a home, raised two sons and established a thriving business. But nothing lasts forever and their contented lives, already shadowed by the loss of their eldest boy to war, are about to shatter. With the return of a figure from the past, long buried truths are forced to the surface and the price of their American dream is laid bare.
What gives the play its momentum is the force of Arthur Miller’s message. In part the play is an assault on the twin American gods of family and profit: Joe’s last line of defence is: “I’m in business.” But this is not simply a play about war profiteering. As the American critic Harold Clurman pointed out, Miller’s real theme is the way a distorted individualism has replaced the idea of responsibility to the community. Bill Pullman and Sally Field are strong actors that hold us riveted. Both performances are masterclasses in moral ambivalence. And in showing the Kellers to be flawed, fragile human beings and not speechifying villains.
At the heart of the family is Kate Keller, played here by two-time Oscar winner Sally Field, who’s making her first appearance on a British stage. She brings both trembling anxiety and an air of mystery to this obsessive character, who’s sustained by the delusion that her son Larry, reported missing in wartime action, is still alive. Bill Pullman’s Joe, who looks like a rather ruffled eagle, uses joviality to deflect questions of responsibility.
UK 2019, 172 min, rated M (suicide references)
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Play by Arthur Miller
Starring Sally Field, Bill Pullman, Jenna Coleman, Colin Morgan, Bessie Carter, Oliver Johnstone, Kayla Meikle & Sule Rimi