Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Stephen Unwin
Reviewer: Audrey Pointer
Arthur Miller’s private life achieved notoriety with his famous marriage to Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in 1956. Around the same time, he wrote A View From The Bridge, which was influenced by his impoverished adolescence in the 1930’s Depression. It is widely considered a 20th century classic tragic drama. It is based on his experiences of working on the docks and the social and economic consequences of poverty. This play was originally directed by Peter Brook and premiered in London in 1956 and it has also won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2010. This current production is by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company.
The play is set in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn, New York harbour in the 1950s, in a family of Italian-Americans, headed by hard-working longshoreman Eddie Carbone. The cousin of his wife Beatrice, and his friend, both illegal immigrants, are to come and stay with the family. The tensions caused by this apparently accommodating arrangement will have a major impact on the lives of all the main characters.
Designer Liz Ascroft’s compound set consist of several elements. At the back of the stage are two large panels depicting telegraph poles and, symbolically, in the distance, The Statue of Liberty. There is also a “real” telegraph pole on stage. In between the panels is a three-storey fire escape which is actually used in act two. There are bedroom and kitchen areas to the back while downstage are the armchair of Eddie Carbone (Jonathan Guy Lewis), a dining area and the office of lawyer Alfieri (Michael Brandon) who acts as narrator. Costume is mainly practical working outfits apart from some items worn by Catherine (Daisy Boulton) and Rodolpho (James Rastall), who represents aspirations to a new era in American life. Paul Pyant’s lighting creates atmospheric little spaces where tensions grow, which is essential on the vast Alhambra stage. Stephen Unwin’s direction ensures that the tension mounts gradually until the final scene, where things are resolved passionately.
Lewis portrays Carbone convincingly, despite his complex psychology, which encompasses doting family man, proud labourer, confused father figure and dishonoured neighbour. Boulton gives a compelling picture of a young woman steadily ground down by her uncle’s decline into moral turpitude. Teresa Banham ably portrays the loyalties and annoyances of wife Beatrice. The quiet strength and traditionalism of Marco is in the safe hands of Philip Cairns. Rastall has a difficult bag of traits to sew together to create a young man who is “not right” in Eddie’s opinion, but who still manages to shine with his vivacity and aspirations.
The play has much in common with Italian opera, with its themes of family, honour, violence, fatherly over-protection of a young female and forbidden love. Like a Greek tragedy, the play allows an arena to debate issues of social concern. Anchored firmly in the mundane, there are many moments of domestic bliss. However, the family unity is easily shaken by ordinary events. How these are interpreted creates ramifications that lead to a gripping drama which will appeal to many theatregoers.
Runs until: 4th April 2015