Photo from National Theatre Live (A Young Vic production). Michael Gould (lawyer) and Mark Strong (Eddie Carbone) Centre stage.
Written in 1955, this play has had several rewritings where the ending especially has taken on different forms. This London version corresponds to the final published version where Eddie dies in his wife’s arms. Especially after the 1942 film starring Raf Vallone, the play became a classic of cinematic neo realism or even Zola-like naturalism that we always associate Miller’s dramaturgy . Miller’s stark naturalism fore grounds the complex psychology of the characters and here, Ivo Van Hove captures the deeply troubling psychological turmoil of Eddie Carbone the Longshoreman and patriarch of his New York family composed of Beatrice his wife, Catherine his niece , 2 young illeagal Sicilian immigrant cousins Rodolpho and Marco. As a relationship develops between Catherine and Rodolpho, Carbone’s hostility to this young man turns the uncle into a tense, brooding , jealous, angry creature who ultimately gives in to a most hateful gesture that has tragic consequences. The question of Illeagal immigration is dealt with in the play, as the director mentions in a preshow interview, and that is what gives the event a certain immediacy in relation to recent events in the United States.
However, the Carbone’s inner turmoil is the main source of energy that boils over into a ritualized confrontation of males repressing their sexual desires as the overprotective uncle deals with the young cousins, one of whom is a less than a “macho” young man, “not the longshoreman type”, echos Eddie. The fact that Rodolfo appears to be gaining the favours of Eddie’s beautiful young niece Cate, stirs up the deeply repressed feelings of desire to which Eddie would never admit. The ultimate moment of passion explodes in a most ambiguous act, and the ending gives rise to a symbolic family image that reminded me ever so slightly of Emma Dante’s play Le sorelle Macaluso where she reveals the tribal passions of a Sicilian family that underpin the power of the fatherover his daughters. They would seem to explain the vendettas, the hate ,the family quarrels, the deadly feuds and all the violence that appears in certain patriarchal cultures , producing the conflict between dependence and independence as the involved members of the family tear away at each other.
Van Hove’s staged rituals delve deeply into the nature of such relationships, certainly striking an important human chord in all these difficult emotional ties. Mark Strong as Eddie was powerful , annoying`, seductive but almost terrifying with his piercing gaze, and boxer’s physique and yet we sympathise with him. His wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker) was the calm presence who tries to reunite them all and avoid conflict. She is a very strong woman with much self control who feels she understands Eddie but she is not happy because she realises what is bothering her husband. She tries to make Cate understand that she is no longer a baby! She has to grow up and leave. Walker is strong and yet she caresses Eddie as she speaks whereas Catherine is edgy, nervous unsure, speaking in nervous clipped sentences, trying to understand her own feelings. The physical gestures are so telling. The young niece leaps on Uncle Eddie and grabs his head with the enthusiasm of a child. He carresses her arms and her hair and exhibits gestures of tenderness that he never shows to his wife. It is clear that Beatrice senses what others do not seem to understand and it isn’t until Rodolfo comes into the picture that the tension explodes and Eddie ‘s anger materializes when he sees how close the two young people have become.
The play, a two hour long non-stop journey into the lives of these six people, has the flow of a tragic ritual and Van Hove’s stark staging accompanied by religious music strengthens that feeling throughout by actually removing any touch of gritty naturalism to which we are accustomed in Miller’s world.
. As the curtain rises we see two men washing themselves under a shower in a darkened shower-roome. The beautiful bodies of Eddie and his mate Louis transform the washing into an act of purification, opening the space for a profane event that will inevitably carry them all away in a family sacrifice . One of the most intense moments of the play hinted at Noh theatre, where they are all sitting on the flat square acting space with the audience on three sides of the performance space. The actors, facing each other, barely move . Their faces are frozen like masks; Rodolfo sits crossed legged, staring across at Eddie whose “dark tunnel eyes” are burning holes in the young man’s gaze. Catherine is curled up behind Rodolfo on a bench. Marco is on the floor, watching, Beatrice who tries to change the mood. There are long pauses; there is the “toc” sound of a percussion instrument one hears during a Noh theatre performance just before the Ghost comes into the scene. Very little is said but the tension is tightly orchestrated so that it rises and falls at the appropriate moment. Each encounter becomes a creative challenge between Eddie and Rodolfo until Marco and Rodolfo erupt on stage to release their anger against Eddie; then violence breaks out and the bloody sacrifice of the family is accomplished on that small alter ,shining under the lighting of Jan Versweyveld.
This was a beautiful production that all worked so smoothly. The actors use their Brooklyn accents with apparent ease. The lawyer, Alfieri, becomes the narrator, who wanders over the set, displaced among the characters as he comments on events and on his own feelings, somewhat like the single voice of a chorus which no longer possesses its own space. Young Catherine ( Phoebe Fox) glowed with childish joy ,undercut by displays of ambiguous affection as she leaps on Eddie, wraps her legs around his waist and strangles him in a big hug. Then, as she evolves into an older girl involved with Rodolpho, it becomes clear that the new Sicilian cousin seduces her with his stories of beautiful Sicilie , so intent on being “good” as he works his way through the new world.
Such precision is enhanced by the music and the sounds that emphasize the emotions rumbling in the background and the final moments hurtle us away into the tsunami of anger that awaits them all.
A renewed vision of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge that lifts his grungy reality into a world of epic passion. Do not miss this. Encore Thursday, May 2 2015, in local cineplex theatres
A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller. .
Directed by IVO Van Hove.
Set design and lighting by Jan Versweyveld. Costumes by An D’Huys.
Sound by Tom Gibbons
Marco Emun Elliott
Catherine Phoebe Fox
Alfieri Michael Gould
Louis Richard Hansell
Officer Padraig Lynch
Rodolpho Luke Norris
Eddie Mark Strong
Beatrice Nicola Walker
A View From the Bridge:Directed by Ivo Van Hove, a production of the Young Vic theatre , performed at the Wyndham theatre