Monday, 6 April 2015

NT Live: Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge ★★★★


Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge’ strikingly visceral script lays bear the brewing tensions of a man’s obsession with his niece. Yet it’s not all about Eddie Carbone, it’s the domino effect his uncontained emotions have on the rest of his family; his wife Beatrice and Sicilian cousin Marco. 
Last year The Young Vic’s production of Miller’s play made a killing at the box office with its impressive stage direction and steadfast cast including Mark Strong, as Eddie Carbone, that it welcomed a sturdy transfer to West End’s Wyndham Theatre.
An NT Live event of the production was shown to hundreds of cinemas across the nation on March 26th, which also went down a storm, zooming into the protagonist’s harbouring instincts and ‘tunnels’ in his eyes, as described by Alfieri, the ubiquitous narrator. 
Miller wrote the play with the theatrical fixtures of a Greek tragedy following the brechtian rulebook where theatre says more the human condition than reality itself. And for this production experimental Belgium director, Ivo Van Hove, executed it right by bringing together Miller’s stage manifesto with an unexpected ending that stings like a slap in the face.

Van Hove’s production instills two blood-boiling hours of accumulative drama, yet there isn’t time for an interval for audiences to recuperate and reflect. Jan Versweyveld’s staging is white and stark, bordered with low fences mirroring the space within a boxing ring. It has the effect of telling the audience this is as far as the emotional violence and physically fighting will go. This is most prominent when Carbone invites Rodolpho (Luke Norris), a friend of his cousin, Marco (Emun Elliott) to a quick lesson on boxing. Soon it erupts into a sparring match and ends with a hard jab in Rodolpho’s stomach. 
Well-known film and television actor, Strong doesn’t mess around with Eddie’s character. Strong builds dramatic momentum with his personification of Eddie’s frustrations that is let loose when he abandons reason and gives up his cousin to the immigration bureau. 
From the outset Eddie is besotted with Catherine (Phoebe Fox.) She jumps and wraps her legs around him as if she was still a 6-year-old child, but that’s unacceptable. She’s grown into a 17-year-old teenager wearing high heels and short skirts, giving him the ‘willies.’ For this it opens up a few questions to the audience. Is he evil? Is he innocent? And, can we pity him? 
Michael Gould plays Eddie’s lawyer and Miller’s storyteller and he absorbs these roles without confusing them. As a lawyer and advisor, Gould shows the attributes of a loyal and good friend, trustworthy and logical to the point that shouting the truth at Eddie doesn't deter him. Nicola Walker plays a tenacious part as Eddie’s battle-axe and sexually neglected wife Beatrice, while Phoebe Fox is full of energy. She bestows a fast-spoken and fiery teenage beauty. 
Norris’ interpretation of Rodolpho is an interesting one. As part of the audience, I wasn’t entirely sure if Eddie’s suspicions were correct of Rodolpho, that he was using Catherine for a green card, yet Norris showcases the polar opposite of Eddie's manlihood. He can cook, dance and sing, and has a better chance with Catherine, which Eddie just cannot stand. And Emun Elliott really comes out of his humble character as Eddie’s blood cousin and shows a darker side in the pinnacle scene in the act of picking up a chair with one hand.
When pressured conversations and verbal confrontations arise, Tom Gibbon’s use of a quasi-Asian instrument, mimicking Kabuki theatre, denotes the sounds of a ticking timer, which aggravates the audience and projects them into the minds and anxieties of its characters. 
There is nothing that says 1955’s Brooklyn on Van Hove’s stage. The script moves fast causing viewers to fidget and scream for an interval, but Van Hove gives everyone the relief with a crescendo blood bath that pours with Faure's Requiem in ‘Libera me’. Some parts may be sordid (I won’t say which), but at least with NT Live you can run to the bathroom, if you, really, have to.

 The Encore screening at Gate Cinema is on the 7th April at 12pm. Check your local cinemas to confirm times. Other cinemas may have different schedules for the encore.
(Photos courtesy of National Theatre Live.)