Bridge Over Troubled Waters
The production of A View from the Bridge recently opened at the Young Vic is one of the strongest and most compelling you can see in London at the moment and shouldn’t be missed. Mark Strong gives a painful, powerful and totally gripping performance as the tragic Eddie Carbone that builds to a towering climax from its inception as an almost self-consciously ordinary, blinkered guy; by the finale he is a man of heroic, tragic stature. Strong’s is a brilliantly controlled performance. The niece, Catherine, for whom he has incestuous feelings, and his
wife, Beatrice, whose love for him and anger at his blindness to his tragic flaw are powerfully conveyed, by Phoebe Fox and Nicola Walker. They are as strong and importantly central to the story as Eddie himself; one leaves the theatre with memories of many gestures, many readings, that are superb.
The problem of Catherine’s own sexuality and unconscious flirtatiousness are clearly transmitted; and a suggestion of Eddie’s complex attractions not only to his niece but to Rodolfo, the man she comes to love, give more depth to the play. These are complex but inarticulate characters who develop in self-awareness and maturity as the play unfolds. Catherine and Beatrice in particular come across as people of inner strength, of real understanding and of deep emotion. Luke Norris is a suitably attractive and naïve Rodolfo when he arrives from Sicily, and he grows in understanding as the play develops without entirely losing his vulnerability. Emun Elliott is frighteningly obsessive and menacing as a figure of immoveable vengeance by the end.Praise must be given for all this to director Ivo van Hove who is clearly responsible for the overall concept of the way this production interprets Arthur Miller’s text. He creates with this production a strong appreciation of the true stature of this play.
The performance takes place on a thrust stage and uses the Narrator—a kind of stand-in for the Greek Chorus—in multiple roles: to read his own lines and play out his scenes as the lawyer whom Eddie consults; to tell us the story after the event; and to read some of Miller’s stage directions. It’s an inspired concept that avoids pace-breaking scene changes and allows the story to unfold smoothly and almost cinematically with accelerating impact. Van Hove clearly has great empathy for the play and sympathy with all the characters, and doesn’t miss a beat or a nuance. Eddie becomes a figure of true tragic stature, and the staging of the ending itself is wrenching (and not to be revealed in advance). Let’s just say it not only works for this text but evokes the great Greek plays of bloody revenge. The design by Jan Versweyveld and the use of sound effects almost as electronic music to create and increase a sense of tension and foreboding are additional reasons to admire this production.
Miller began writing about the world of the New York docks when he worked with Elia Kazan on a screenplay called The Hook, a project that went on to become On the Waterfront, written by Budd Schulberg. This was after Kazan had named names for the House Un-American Activities Committee and, as Miller saw it, had sold out to McCarthy-ism, something Miller couldn’t forgive or forget; and which, it seems to me, must have informed his concept of Eddie Carbone’s betrayal of family and community in A View from the Bridge. The story itself was apparently a true one that was told to Miller by a lawyer who worked with the longshoremen.
The play has, on the whole, played second fiddle to Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, over the years; especially after its initial failure as a verse play. But this production certainly proves that it stands with Arthur Miller’s best and that it is also one of the icons of the twentieth century.
A View from the Bridge is at the Young Vic,
Waterloo, London until 7 June 2014.
Monday – Saturday (except 21 Apr and 5 May): 7.30pm
Wednesday & Saturday matinees (except 5, 9, 12 Apr): 2.30pm
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes without an interval
Tickets: £10, £19.50, £25, £35