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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
at the Young Vic

EXTENDED FAMILY
By CLIVE HIRSCHHORN

  Ph: Jan Versweyveld

There is no view from the (Brooklyn) bridge in Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s shattering, newly minted staging of Arthur Miller’s 1955 drama A View from the Bridge. There is no view of anything, in fact. Played uninterrupted on a thrusting bare stage that at times gives the impression it is hermetically sealed from the rest of world, there is nothing, other than the dialogue, to suggest the action unfurls in a Brooklyn tenement near the docks where protagonist Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) works as a longshoreman.
 
Eddie’s a testosterone-fuelled, hyper-masculine patriarch of Italian origin who, given the proscribed nature of his daily routine and his limited extra-curricular interests, leads exactly the kind of life expected of a working-class man in his position.
 
His family comprises his wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker) and Catherine (Phoebe Fox), Beatrice’s 17-year-old niece who has been brought up by the Carbones after the death of her mother, and of whom Eddie is unhealthily possessive.
 
The situation on which the entire play pivots (until it spirals into tragedy) is set in motion when Eddie agrees to take in two brothers, illegal Italian immigrants who are hoping to find work at the docks so that one of them, Marco (Emun Elliot), a married man with three children, can earn some money to send back to his struggling wife. His brother Rodolpho (Luke Norris) is single and, much to the jealous disapproval of Eddie, inevitably falls in love with Catherine and she with him.
 
To Eddie, who has over-protected and molly-coddled Catherine for most of her life, her relationship with Rodolpho gnaws away at him like a fast-spreading cancer, resulting not only in several desperate attempts on his behalf to question Rodolpho’s manhood (the boy he insists “is not right”), but heart-stoppingly climaxes in betrayal and death.
 
By boldly underscoring the action with both a continuous humming sound throughout and a metronomic beat that almost literally sets your heart racing, the play’s final 15 minutes are as intense and as visceral as anything I have experienced in the theatre – almost unbearably so.
All the performers, who appear throughout in bare feet, are superb – most auspiciously Strong as the emotionally riven Eddie. Fox as Catherine credibly matures from the “baby” she has remained in Eddie’s eyes to a marriageable young woman with a mind of her own, while Walker breaks your heart as a woman who sees and understands the sad truth behind her husband’s irrational behaviour without being able to do a thing about it.
 
In his stage directions Miller never states that Marco and Rodolpho, who have never been out of Italy before, should speak with Italian accents. Nor is there any explanation of why their English, given their backgrounds, is as good as it is. It’s just something Elliot and Norris convincingly take on trust. As must the audience.
 
By staging the piece (which runs two hours) without an intermission, Miller’s intention, that his drama should have the feel of a Greek tragedy, is forcefully enhanced by director van Hove, and of course by the playwright’s inclusion of a “Greek chorus” in the shape of a character called Alfieri (Michael Gould, excellent) who not only comments on the action and warns us of its catastrophic outcome, but also plays the role of a lawyer who’s good advise Eddie Carbone refuses to heed.
 
When a great play gets a stunning production there is no better place to be than in a theater. It’s only May, I know, but this simply has to be the revival of the year.

 


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