Phoebe Fox, Mark Strong and Nicola Walker. Photo: Jan Versweyveld
Reviewed by James Karas
The Young Vic production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge has reached Canada by way of a live transmission from England. It is a breathtaking production despite some sloppy camera work.
Director Ivo van Hove has pared the play to its bare essentials and produced a drama that is akin to Greek tragedy.
The play takes place in Brooklyn in the 1950s and is set on a street and the living room-dining room of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman, originally from Italy. Miller gives directions for a single set that includes a desk for the lawyer Alfieri, a telephone booth, furniture, a ramp leading to the street and a stairway leading to the upstairs apartments.
Van Hove and designer Jan Versweyveld have done away with all of that and reduced the playing area to a small square on the stage. There is a door at the back and there are no props except for a chair that is brought in as an essential item.
When the curtain goes up, we see two men taking a shower. They dry themselves off as the lawyer Alfieri (Michael Gould), (he is the chorus in the play), enters and gives us some background information about that part of Brooklyn. He will stay on stage throughout the performance (unless he disappears and we in the movie theatre simply do not see it).
In the small, brightly lit playing area we will see Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) greeted by his young niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) who jumps in his arms and wraps her lags around his waist. She is agile, pretty and curious about men. Eddie is clearly attracted to her but his attraction is more illicit passion than an uncle’s protective attitude.
Rodolfo (Luke Norris) and Marco (Emun Elliott), two cousins, arrive from Italy and stay illegally working as longshoremen to pay off their debt to the people who “fixed” everything for them.
Catherine falls in love with Rodolfo and Eddie is driven to distraction with subconscious jealousy and anger against Rodolfo. His furor leads him to betray Rodolfo and Marco to the immigration authorities so that they can be deported.
That is ultimate treachery and when Marco finds out he spits on Eddie. Eddie becomes not just a social pariah but is in fact dehumanized. “I want my name back” he screams. The original context for the play was Senator Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Miller condemned those who appeared before the committee and betrayed their friends by naming names.
Strong gives a powerful performance as Eddie. He has piercing eyes that glow with seething passion, anger and hatred. In the end he is left with nothing as he tries to regain some self-respect.
Fox is a waif of a girl, innocent, curious, attractive and alluring. She falls in love easily with the handsome and just as innocent Rodolfo of Luke Norris.
Eddie’s wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker) is caught in the middle between Eddie who ignores her sexually but demands obedience and “respect” and the realization of her husband’s attraction to Catherine. Walker gives a sympathetic portrayal of the distraught woman.
The play moves towards the inescapable conclusion with the inevitability of Greek tragedy which it consciously emulates. Van Hove eschews the violence of the final scene by choreographing the bloody encounter of the characters. All of them end up bunched together as blood starts dripping on them. This is a return to the tableau of the opening scene. The characters slowly fall to the ground and we see Beatrice grasping Eddie’s dead body.
Van Hove has reimagined Miller’s play and done away with the Mediterranean emotionalism and has given a strikingly fresh approach that is a triumph of directing.
Now for the bad news. There are always issues when transmitting a theatre production to a movie house. Camera angles and shots have to be considered, close-ups and long shots must be chosen judiciously and more. The transmission of A View was simply sloppy. We could be stuck watching someone’s back; looking at the person spoken to instead of the speaker and some basic errors that should not be made. Let’s just say that there is room for improvement.
A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller was transmitted from Wyndham;s Theatre, London, England in production by the Young Vic on March 26, 2015 at the Cineplex VIP Don Mills Shops at Don Mills, 12 Marie Labatte Road, Toronto Ontario M3C 0H9 and other theatres. It will be shown again on May 2, 2015 at select theatres.. For more information: www.cineplex.com/events