The Arthur Miller classic was first staged as a one act production on Broadway in 1955. This latest co-production with Headlong Theatre, Bolton Octagon, Chichester Festival Theatre and the Rose Theatre sees it in its full-length version, with the play’s central themes resonating just as powerfully in today’s world.
Set in a working-class Italian American neighbourhood in Brooklyn, the story revolves around the complex dynamics within the Carbone family. Eddie Carbone (Jonathan Slinger) is a longshoreman who becomes increasingly obsessed with his niece, Catherine (Rachelle Diedericks). Tensions escalate when two Italian immigrants, Marco (Tommy Sim’aan) and Rodolpho (Luke Newberry), move in with the Carbone family, leading to a dramatic confrontation as Eddie’s jealousy and cultural clashes come to a head. As Beatrice (Kirsty Bushell) attempts to play peacemaker, we journey through themes of family, immigration, jealousy and justice, throwing light on the consequences of obsession and betrayal.
Pre-show, we see Catherine with her back to the audience, swinging in the Carbone home, situated in the slum area of Red Hook. The setting remains the same through the show, never letting you forget that it is, indeed, situated in Red Hook – as the name of the area is spelled out in big, red LED powered letters. Why the area name is so important, why the bright letters were chosen as the backdrop and how bold electric lighting sat with the theme or period of the play were questions that haunted me throughout.
The play opens with dramatic music and smoke filling up the stage as we see a handful of men place chairs on the otherwise bare stage in a most artistic fashion. The choreography provides a gripping beginning, but its effect fizzles out once the dialogue begins and the play takes a sharp naturalistic turn. The abstract movement then interspersed through the play, beautifully choreographed by Malik Sharpe, does little to add meaning to the plot. In the first act, the play seems verbose and dry, with a large performing space being underutilised. It manages to pick up pace towards the interval and the second act then escalates in dramatic and physical tension as the character arcs get steep.
While themes of justice and familial dilemmas remain universally present, the struggle of immigrants and the manner in which the law deals with them speak strongly to the refugee crisis in the UK today. As good theatre should, it makes one reflect on the humaneness of those labelled as ‘refugees’ or ‘illegal immigrants’ and reminds us of how they are as human as anyone else, with their individual stories and struggles.
A personal highlight was the fight sequences, directed lucidly by Kev McCurdy. They were not only slick to look at but also played a vital role in drawing in the audience and eliciting strong emotions for and against the characters. If director Holly Roughan had a greater involvement from McCurdy and Sharpe, the show might have got a much needed visual and physical lift.
If you’re willing to be patient with it, the play does turn out to be worth your while. Miller’s writing continues to reflect the complexities of society seven decades later, not just in America or England but the world over.
A View from the Bridge is running at Rose Theatre until 11th November 2023. Tickets can be found at https://rosetheatre.org/whats-on/13/starring-jonathan-slinger-and-nancy-crane/a-view-from-the-bridge
Reviewer: Aditi Dalal
Reviewed: 1st November 2023
North West End UK Rating: