Review: A View From The Bridge

Miller's view is dark, bleak and compelling


There is a terrible inevitability about A View From The Bridge.

From the very first moment the audience knows something bad is going to happen. What it is, and how it unfolds, is down to the genius of writer Arthur Miller, to director Sarah Frankcom and, for my money at least, to Con O'Neill. He gives a captivating performance as Eddie Carbone, the uncle driven by improper passion.

It is very much an adult play. Not that there is anything explicit on stage, but much is implied. Yes, it is about love, honour and justice in the docks of 1950s New York. But, more darkly, it is also about incest, forbidden lust, an unfulfilled marriage and an appalling betrayal.

A View From The Bridge was written after The Crucible, probably Miller's best–known work, in the mid-'50s, a period in which he was witch-hunted by McCarthy's anti-communists and left his wife to marry Marilyn Monroe.

Miller apparently immersed himself in the life of the New York longshoremen, eating and drinking with them, even joining the lines at 4.30am as they hustled for a day's work. The result of this research is a compelling drama that captures not only the desperation of the era, but also the sense of a community pulling together under pressure.

Eddie is a giving man, but he has "too much love". And giving too much is his downfall. He opens his home to his orphaned niece Catherine (Leila Mimmack) and brings her up her like a daughter. Then he takes in his wife's cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, a pair of illegal immigrants from Italy fleeing hunger and poverty in search of work.

It is the romance between his niece Catherine and Rodolpho (Ronan Raftery) that drives the action. Eddie is convinced that Rodolpho "ain't right". In his world men who have blond hair and can sing, sew and cook and are not real men, and certainly not worthy of his adopted daughter.

One of the most poignant scenes juxtaposes Rodolpho as he dances tenderly with Catherine, then squares up to Eddie, who wants to teach him to box. Beneath the comedy of
the moment lies something much darker.

This is a remarkably sparse production, with virtually no set or props. The intrigue is in the lines, and what is between them. We understand that Rodolpho and Catherine have consummated their relationship, but it is never stated.

We hear a brief telephone conversation to the Immigration Bureau, and understand that it is the trigger for something catastrophic.

Ian Redford plays the wise lawyer and narrator, reminding us that the inevitable tragedy is going to happen. Con O'Neill is a marvellous mix of rage and reason, rationalising the way he "protects" Catherine, yet doomed by his fury. And Anna Francolini is impressive as Beatrice, the long-suffering wife, who tells a story as much with her facial expressions as with her lines.

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