A View from the Bridge
Photo The Other Richard.
I watched this moving production of a powerful play in the midst of a large secondary school party – year 9, I think. They clearly didn’t know A View from the Bridge so their very fresh reactions became part of my experience too. They were, for example, shocked into stone-still horror at the visceral climax. No Arthur Miller play ends happily, after all, and the effect of Eddie’s inevitable downfall is profoundly shocking in Holly Race Roughan’s take on the play. And the spaciousness of CFT’s big stage along with Max Perryment’s menacing sound design psychs it all up effectively.
Nancy Crane is the first woman to play Alfieri, the lawyer who functions as a quasi Greek Chorus or narrator in what is effectively a Greek drama set in Brooklyn. Continuously on stage, often she’s in shadow or half-lit. She is pleasingly naturalistic particularly in the scenes when she is consulted by other characters for advice. There is an audibility issue though with her, and sometimes with other cast members, especially when she’s on the balcony/bridge which is upstage and high. The combination of the adopted flat New York accent and the inevitable masking caused by working on a big thrust stage means that words, or even whole sentences are lost – at least from Row H where I was sitting along with all those 13 and 14 year olds. This is a great pity because an audience, by definition, needs to hear the play and if they can’t then, however good the production, the experience is marred.
Famously, the play tells the story of Eddie who has lovingly but over-protectively brought up his orphaned niece Catherine (Rachelle Diedericks – good) and accommodated illegal Italian immigrants in his hard won Brooklyn home. He is appalled when she falls in love with one of the lodgers whom Eddie regards as despicably effeminate. It’s an exploration of changing patriarchal values and, of course, immigration is as topical now as it was in the mid-1950s.
It’s generally a strong cast among which Kirsty Bushell as Eddie’s wife, Beatrice, is outstanding. She pleads, frets, loses patience and completely inhabits a very three dimensional character, torn between her love for Eddie and the voice of reason and common sense. And her “pieta” tableau at the end is beautifully poignant. Beatrice is one of§ the best of Arthur Miller’s long suffering, troubled women.
There are symbolic things in this production the rationale for which isn’t clear. I could have done without the ballet dancer, the garden swing and the slow motion hefted wooden chairs. That school party certainly went home with plenty to reflect on and discuss but I’m glad I wasn’t one of the accompanying teachers attempting to explain some of the more obscure directorial decisions.
First published by Sardines: https://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/review/a-view-from-the-bridge-2/