All Our Children, written by Stephen Unwin, is set in Germany, 1941. A clinic for ill children is “helping” the country by treating them, or so the public are led to believe.
The head of the clinic, Victor (Colin Tierney), has the duty of authorising the methods in which the patients are dealt with, accompanied by the assistance of Eric (Edward Franklin). These two characters have a delightful back and forth despite Victor’s seniority, and this makes for witty banter between them. However, there is an underlying sense that the Doctor (Tierney) is not a follower of Hitler or his ideals, whereas Eric is completely committed to the cause and what the clinic is doing.
It is interesting to see the differences in these two actors’ tempos, with Franklin playing a 23-year-old he brings a fast paced delivery to the role, which contrasts nicely with Tierney’s almost tired, more laid back energy. But make no mistake, this is not a lacklustre performance, as Tierney remains onstage for the entirety of this production (with no interval), and the journey we witness his character go through is impeccable. Martha (Rebecca Johnson) is Victor’s maid, but despite this, their relationship is one of trust, and he cares for her thoughts and feelings. Johnson’s portrayal of Martha is one of a caring mother, and her struggle to hold her tongue about what she believes is right and wrong is one which we can all relate to. A special mention must be made for Lucy Speed, who brings a beautiful fragility to the part of Elizabetta, a concerned mother who tries to remain positive about her current situation. This amounts to a truly moving portrayal. David Yelland plays Bishop Von Gallen and exudes a grounded superiority which comes with such a title, as he discusses with Victor what is actually going on with the patients. These conflicting characters are beautifully written and in turn, wonderfully played by the entire company.
The entire play is set in Victor’s office, and the set (Simon Higlett) is decorated with dark wooden décor, with the room dressed with details such as Victor’s framed medical certification on the wall. The costumes (Karen Large) are simple as these characters are hard-working people, and the play’s design matches the austerity of war-time Germany perfectly. That said, it makes for a nice counterpoint when the Bishop enters the office in full regalia. The simplicity in costume and set can also be said for the lighting (Tim Mascall) and sound (John Leonard) design, which subtly presents the time of day, shows the fireplace as lit and the radio broadcasts seem as if they are coming from the radio itself; all of which contribute to an intimate atmosphere, as if we are actually sat in this character’s office.
I was curious as to why Unwin had chosen this topic, and upon seeing the play, it was -interesting to notice many parallels to our current situation and the state of the world. It shows how blindly following someone in a position of power can have devastating consequences. This is an incredibly effective way of commenting on how numbers are relied on more than human empathy. I will be recommending All Our Children to everyone, you will be hooked from start to finish.
All Our Children is playing Jermyn Street Theatre until June 3.
Photo: Camilla Greenwell