Castle Hill Players, for as long as I’ve known it, has always been a theatre company of love and community. Members involved onstage for one show are then running the canteen at the next or assisting as stage crew backstage or even just there to cheer on the next production. I mention this simply because for me that’s the true definition of community theatre, many hands coming together to create something bigger than they could possibly hope and Castle Hill Player’s latest show ‘All My Sons’ encapsulates that.
Director Jan Mahoney has lofty dreams for this show and it’s quite easy to see that she has succeeded in drawing out the best, not only from her performers but also from her creative team and designers. The sheer amount of effort that went into all aspects of this production is on display from the start. A beautiful set piece of a mid-20th century home designed by Maureen Cartledge really helps create the impressive and almost show off feel of the Keller family. An immersive sound design by Bernard Teuben surrounds the audience from the opening and the costumes by Lyn Jones help elevate the characterisations of the cast. This was paired with impressive use of practical effects and some wonderful lighting choices which really elevated pivotal scenes designed and operated by Sean Churchward.
I’m not as familiar with this Arthur Miller classic as I should be, but that being said, I had no problems in understanding the storyline or the tragedy of the family due to the clever storytelling of everyone involved. For want of a better word, this show is extremely heavy with a slower first act that sets up the required exposition to allow for a fast paced second act where all this build up bursts into a thrilling and intense conclusion. Jan has done a fantastic job in dragging out every drop of emotion she can from her actors. It is the build-up and break down of their relationships that keeps the audience enthralled.
Some particular standouts for me include Leigh Scanlon as Kate Keller, the mother just barely holding on after her son Larry’s disappearance 3 years earlier, Julian Floriano as Chris Keller, Kate’s other son who also served in the War and Nicole Harwood as Ann Deever the love interest of Chris and Larry’s old girlfriend. The interplay of relationships between the three of them was extraordinary and really highlighted the themes of looking to the past, the present and the future. Without giving too much away the final moments of this show with the 3 of them onstage was one of the most intense scenes in theatre I’ve witnessed.
Another noteworthy performance was Dimitri Armatas as George Deever Ann’s elder brother in a smaller cameo role in act two. His emotional ark was stunningly well played and lifted the energy on that stage tenfold, which kept up a breakneck pace until the end of the show. Dave Went as Joe Keller was also well cast in his role portraying the patriarch of the family, steadfast in his beliefs and ideals. The rest of the cast Steve Row, Tracey Okeby Lucan, Daniel Boole, Tess Needham and Jayden Bishop played their roles well and helped to create the feeling of a friendly neighbourhood that is slightly too invested in everyone’s business.
As stated earlier, Act 2 flows a lot easier then Act 1 but combined they create a thoroughly enjoyable piece of theatre, which despite being written nearly 70 years ago, the themes of grief, loss, moving on and personal accountability still seem shockingly relevant.
I give this piece 3 and a half glasses of Kate’s homemade grape juice out of 5.