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A View From The Bridge at Theatre Royal Haymarket | Review

In this production, the dialogue is allowed to speak for itself, without too much of a soundscape and background music to embellish it, something that some other productions of some other plays would do well to consider. It’s perhaps true that Arthur Miller’s script is strong enough not to need much set at all – the settings of various scenes are made clear through description and/or action. But it is also true that Peter McKintosh’s set is uncluttered, which not only allows for speedy scene changes but also allows the audience’s attention to be largely focused on the storyline.

Dominic West as Eddie in A View From The Bridge. Credit: Johan Persson
Dominic West as Eddie in A View From The Bridge. Credit: Johan Persson

It also allows the cast to make good use of the stage space. When the central character, Eddie Carbone (Dominic West) attempts to teach Rodolpho (Callum Scott Howells) hand-to-hand combat techniques, it seems hard to believe there would really be enough space in Eddie’s front room to facilitate such a lesson, especially with his wife Beatrice (Kate Fleetwood), his niece Catherine (Nia Towle) and Rodolpho’s brother Marco (Pierro Niel-Mee) also in the room.

Eddie’s views on what constitutes behaviour worthy of a man seem to be reduced to expressing only one emotion: anger. It’s not so much that Rodolpho apparently sings in public, but what that represents – a level of happiness and satisfaction in life that Eddie may or may not have once had, but he definitely doesn’t have it now. There’s much to observe in the interactions between characters – Catherine, Beatrice asserts, was never allowed by Eddie to grow up, so it’s no wonder she fell in love with Rodolpho, the first guy to spend any meaningful time with her.

That Beatrice asserted anything at all is itself considered absurd by Eddie, which in turn is itself absurd and misogynistic by contemporary standards. Whether Eddie is merely a by-product of his generation or fundamentally an antagonist beyond redemption – or indeed both – isn’t clear-cut, thanks to West’s nuanced and convincing performance of a character whose values and principles are being challenged in a changing world.

There’s much relevance to modern living as Alfieri attempts to persuade Eddie and Marco, separately, that there are such things as communication and compromise that can be used effectively, and not everything has to be a fight. Immigration remains a hot topic in the West in the 2020s just as it was in the 1950s. It was interesting (at least for me) to discover that the play was initially refused a theatre performance license by the Lord Chamberlain, as it was believed to show a display of homosexuality too explicit for public consumption. Here, when Eddie kisses Rodolpho, it is an attempt at proving Eddie’s supposed authority, and emphasising that Rodolpho (at least in Eddie’s eyes) has none – which is, frankly, very unerotic.

This isn’t a perfect production: a late scene involving an outpouring of emotion was so unconvincing it left me feeling detached, even if there is no such thing as an Arthur Miller play with a happily-ever-after ending. Still, betrayal and homophobia, amongst other things, make the show almost scarily pertinent for our times, which isn’t bad for a play originally written in part to expose the evils of McCarthyism. A gritty and gripping production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Starring BAFTA Award winner Dominic West (The Wire, The Crown, The Affair), Olivier and Tony Award nominee Kate Fleetwood (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Macbeth, London Road) and BAFTA Cymru Award winner Callum Scott Howells, (It’s A SinCabaret)the full cast includes Nia TowleMartin MarquezPierro Niel-Mee, Jimmy Gladdon, Michael Cusick, Santino Smith, Rob Pomfret, Kieton Saunders-Browne, Joseph Passafaro, Fed Zanni, Charlotte Palmer, and Robyn Ellan Ashwood.

 Presented by Theatre Royal Bath Productions with Len Blavatnik and Danny Cohen for Access Entertainment, A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller is directed by Lindsay Posner, designed by Peter McKintosh with lighting designs by Paul Pyant.

Eddie Carbone is an outwardly straightforward man with a strong sense of decency. For Eddie it is a privilege to welcome his wife’s Italian cousins to the land of freedom. But as his niece Catherine falls for one of the visitors, Eddie struggles to control his fierce jealousy, tormented by his own barely concealed lust for the girl. As passions rise, they all soon learn that some freedoms have to come at a terrible price.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Arthur Miller is one of the most highly regarded American playwriters of the twentieth century with work including All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, and The Misfits. His timeless masterpiece View from the Bridge is a passionate study of one man’s place in the close-knit Italian-American community in 1950s New York.

A View from the Bridge was first performed as a one-act verse drama on Broadway in 1955 before being revised for its West End premiere a year later, directed by Peter Brook and starring Richard Harris and Anthony Quayle. The play has since been produced for stage, film, television, radio and as an opera, starring many notable actors and winning numerous awards.

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Theatre Royal Haymarket
11-week season until 3 August 2024

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