Outstanding cast do the business, says Giles Woodforde

The Keller family live in a nice clapboard house in Ohio, and father of the family Joe runs a successful engineering business. There’s lots of cheerful banter with the neighbours. At the start of Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons, everything seems to be rubbing along nicely.

But beneath the surface, a terrible secret simmers and festers. During the Second World War, Joe’s firm knowingly shipped out some faulty aircraft engines, and 21 pilots died as a result. Joe was supposedly in bed with the flu at the time, and the decision to release the engines was very dubiously blamed on a subordinate, Steve Deever. He now rots in jail for the crime, so it’s decidedly awkward that his daughter Ann wants to marry Joe’s son Larry. But Larry dies in a mysterious plane crash (nothing to do with the faulty engines), so she then transfers her affections to Larry’s brother Chris.

As the storyline develops, Miller peels layers from his complex characters, and in this new Watermill production, director Douglas Rintoul exposes each twist and turn with riveting clarity. In one particularly telling scene, a single carelessly uttered word changes the whole atmosphere from reconciliation to outright hostility in a millisecond. The ten-strong cast is uniformly superb, but Jessica Turner’s performance as Joe’s wife Kate is outstanding. Her Kate is clear-eyed, yet blinkered at the same time. She is also deeply superstitious. Husband Joe (Michael Thomas) appears to be extrovertly easy with his conscience at first, while Siobhan O’Kelly presents an intriguing picture of his prospective daughter-in-law Ann — she seems very nice, but what are her real motives? There’s particularly strong work, too, from Adam Burton as second son Chris, and Thomas Padden as Ann’s mixed-up brother George.

“You gotta forgive,” says Joe as he tries to justify his past conduct. “I’m in business.” How many modern bankers have contemplated that line?

All My Sons
Watermill Theatre, Newbury
Until March 22
Tickets: 01635 46044 or email boxoffice@watermill.org.uk