A View from the Bridge : A modern classic stripped to its tragic roots

Jack Farmer reviews a new production of Arthur Miller’s play, currently running at the Young Vic

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Director Ivo van Hove’s production of A View from the Bridge strips away all distractions, distilling Arthur Miller’s classic tragedy down to it’s hard and bitter essence. With no set, no props and no interval, the emotional punch of the play hits home with impressive force.

The actors perform barefoot on a white thrust stage, only interrupted by bursts of operatic song from the wings and a grimly insistent drumbeat. The drama’s social context remains evident in the characters’ speech patterns and moral codes – but this is Miller at its most abstracted, a modern Greek tragedy. The characters are placed on the white-washed stage like laboratory subjects to be analysed.

The aptly-named Mark Strong puts in a commanding performance as butch longshoreman Eddie Carbone. Eddie harbours an unhealthy affection for his niece Catherine; when she falls for Rodolpho, an illegal immigrant lodging at Eddie’s house, he kids himself that his only desire is to protect her from harm. In Eddie’s eyes, Rodolpho is hardly a man at all: he has wavy blond hair, sings, dances and mends-dresses. Eddie’s maladjusted machismo is fully explored in this production: we’re not quite sure if he wants to beat up Rodolpho or take him out on a date. The well-known chair-lifting contest of strength scene takes on melodramatic proportions.

Miller’s dialogue convinces us that he understands the soul of this Italian-American community, but van Hove directs our attention to what is universal in Eddie’s story. This view from the Brooklyn bridge feels somewhat long-distance.

Although the path of Eddie’s self-destruction is obvious from the start, this only increases the tension in such a taut interpretation of the play. The blood-soaked final tableau should feel over-the-top, but it works because it has been so well-earned by the preceding drama.

A production this good doesn’t come around very often; beg, borrow or steal a ticket before it disappears.

A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic until 7th June. £5 standing tickets and day returns available from 10am in person at the theatre.

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