Review: A View From The Bridge

By John Nathan, February 12, 2009

Duke of York’s Theatre, London WC2

Ken Stott (second from left) leads the cast in Arthur Miller’s drama A View From The Bridge

Ken Stott (second from left) leads the cast in Arthur Miller’s drama A View From The Bridge

The headlines about this terrific production of Arthur Miller’s tragedy will inevitably focus on Ken Stott, who grips the jealous essence of New York docker Eddie Carbone with the tenacity of a bull terrier and, like his character, allows no other emotion to get through.

Sleeves rolled up, and with a rolling gait, Stott’s bear-like Eddie stalks his niece Catherine (Hayley Atwell) with a love that is something much more than paternal.

“Sometimes you talk like I’m a crazy man,” barks Eddie at his long-suffering, sexually ignored wife Beatrice, superbly underplayed with heartbreaking stoicism by American actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

She has cause to talk like that. Since the illegal arrival of Sicilian brothers Rodolfo (Harry Lloyd) and Marco (Gerard Monaco) from the old country, Eddie is subsumed by a murderous, obsessive rage at the public displays of affection between Catherine and the playful Rudolfo.

These are all terrific performances, anchored by Allan Corduner’s wise narrator Alfieri, who serves as Miller’s Greek chorus, warning of impending tragedy.

But there are two other less conspicuous, though no less important stories here. One is that Miller’s play arrives with almost unnerving coincidence in the West End just before the stage version of On the Waterfront, the classic movie written by Budd Schulberg (interviewed in this week’s JC), which, as with Miller’s play, draws its characters from brutally exploited dock workers.

The other is about Lindsay Posner, a prolific director with a reputation for delivering solid though not necessarily inspired productions.

For an inspired A View From the Bridge, think of the New York version directed by Michael Mayer (whose production of Spring Awakening is on now), which drew on Miller’s deliberate Greek allusions by setting the action in an amphitheatre made of Brooklyn brownstone steps.

But Posner’s solidity proves to be equally triumphant. Christopher Oram’s design sets the poor Carbones’ home on a street corner and the walls of their building rise and fall between interior and exterior scenes like a vast, solid curtain.

Around this flux, Posner paces the action beautifully. Whether it is the naturalism of an intimate family dinner, or the macho confrontation between Stott’s bullying Eddie and the fearless Marco, who displays his strength in an awe-inspiring silent warning to his host. Vintage Miller. Marvellous theatre.

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Last updated: 4:26pm, April 28 2009