My teenage son informed me that his favourite band Twenty One Pilots took their name from this Arthur Miller play.
Sure enough, watching it at the Old Vic this week, towards the end of act one, there’s a line that makes my ears prick up: “He murdered twenty-one pilots.”
The airmen in question died due to some dodgy engine parts which came from the factory of Joe Keller, the businessman whose sins catch up with him during the course of Miller’s post-war drama.
Jeremy Herrin’s classy revival boasts not just a starry cast list but also one of the most impressively realistic sets I’ve seen in a long while. Designer Max Jones lovingly brings to life the Keller house, with its unroofed porch, and garden fringed by trees, as per Miller’s detailed stage instructions.
The headline US talent comes in the form of Bill Pullman and Sally Field as Keller and his wife Kate.
Pullman’s laid-back Keller speaks in a drawl that’s sometimes hard to understand, but he perfectly portrays a man hollowed out by tragedy and has a great chemistry with Field. She’s excellent in the role of a mother in denial about the death of her son Larry – to the extent that she finds comfort in horoscopes – while showing off her manipulative side with lines like “You gained a little weight, didn’t you darling?”
That particular put-down is aimed at Ann Deever, Larry’s former fiancée, who has been invited to stay by Chris, the Kellers’ other son, so he can propose to her. She’s also the daughter of Joe’s ex-business partner who went to jail over the engine scandal. None of this is going to end well.
Ann is played by Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who, Victoria) and Chris by Colin Morgan (Merlin) – both of whom shine in their roles representing the younger post-war generation.
Herrin lets the tension build slowly in the first half, before delivering two devastating final acts after the interval. Not even some rogue mobile phone bleeps could ruin the atmosphere.
And before anyone writes in. Yes, I know Twenty One Pilots are technically a duo, not a band.
All My Sons is at The Old Vic until 8 June