Jenna Coleman makes her professional stage debut at The Old Vic theatre in London, joining a stellar cast in Arthur Miller drama All My Sons.
The last few years have been very kind to Jenna Coleman. After travelling through time and space as Clara Oswald in Doctor Who, she ascended to the throne in ITV’s Victoria. Last year she also tackled psychological drama in four-part BBC One series The Cry. Now, at long last, Jenna makes her professional stage debut in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at The Old Vic theatre in London. With glowing press reviews and an all-star cast, does this latest production live up to our lofty expectations?
To set the scene, All My Sons takes place in America, 1947. The war may be over across the world, but its ramifications still linger in the home of Joe and Kate Keller. On the surface, the couple are a success story. They have raised two sons, Chris and Larry, and established a thriving business. However, nothing lasts forever, and their contented lives are about to shatter. Already they have lost their eldest son Larry, who went missing (presumed dead) in the war. Now, three years later, faces from the past return to force buried truths to the surface and lay bare the price of the Kellers’ American dream…
The first thing most audiences will notice about The Old Vic’s All My Sons is the incredible talent on display. The four main characters are all big names from both sides of the Atlantic ocean. Joe Keller is played by Bill Pullman, aka the President from Independence Day. Kate Keller is played by two-time Oscar winner, two-time Golden Globe winner, and three-time Emmy winner Sally Field, of Forrest Gump and Mrs Doubtfire fame. That alone just goes to show the immense quality of the acting on the stage. Their surviving son, Chris, is played by Colin Morgan (best known to UK audiences as Merlin from… well, Merlin!). Completing the ‘big four’ is Jenna Coleman herself, appearing in the role of Ann Deever. Some brief ensemble characters aside, the play very much lives and dies on the portrayals of these characters. As such, it’s reassuring that the stars (quite literally) have aligned for this production.
All My Sons is a very small-scale, intimate story. The entire show takes place across one day and in only one location: the Kellers’ back yard. Joe is enjoying the renewed success of his company, following accusations that he shipped faulty parts which killed 21 pilots in the war. Kate is still reeling from the death of Larry three years prior, convinced he is still alive as his body was never found. Meanwhile, Chris has invited Ann, their former neighbour and daughter of Joe’s incarcerated partner, to come pay him a visit. Ann used to be engaged to Larry, but now Chris hopes to marry her instead. Already, you might be able to sense that the pieces are in place for some strong dramatic tension. Indeed, it’s only a matter of time until the sparks begin to fly…
The American Dream
All My Sons is a rather subtle and very talky play, meaning it won’t be to everybody’s tastes. And yet, it remains a powerfully gripping show. It’s a slow burner that sneaks up on you over its 2 and a half hour runtime, drawing you in gradually with timeless writing and utterly magnificent performances. Bill Pullman is brilliant as the bright but broken father. Colin Morgan gets a fantastic opportunity to showcase his dramatic acting chops. Sally Field provides levity while also totally breaking your heart. And finally Jenna Coleman, while not in the biggest role of the four, more than does herself justice too. Her performance is multi-layered: not just the sweet and pretty girl-next-door, but also a fiery force to be reckoned with. It’s especially impressive how well everyone performs (and remembers!) such a wordy, conversational script – particularly for Jenna and Colin, who both also convince in American accents.
Credit must also go to the production itself. With just one location to play around in, the design needs to be impressive. Luckily, The Old Vic presents us with a beautifully crafted, well-lit, and visually striking set. Indeed, at times it’s easy to forget you’re in a theatre, and not actually sat there in the garden with these characters! In short: All My Sons at The Old Vic is a perfect storm, with cast and crew coming together to put on a stunning show. Congratulations to Sally Field, Bill Pullman, Colin Morgan, and director Jeremy Herrin for bringing Arthur Miller’s tale to life with such aplomb. And of course, a special congratulations to our Impossible Girl, Jenna Coleman, on making such a success of her stage debut. We’re sure it won’t be long until she’s treading the boards once again!