A View From the Bridge
Ivo Van Hove puts his own unique brand on a classic with an immensely powerful take on Arthur Miller’s modern tragedy. Set in the Sicilian-American community in 1950s Brooklyn, A View From the Bridge is a searing tale of loyalty, honour, and betrayal; and the Young Vic’s production brings its harsh world to stage in stark, vivid detail.
Jan Versweyveld’s stripped back set – a rectangular thrust stage that closes like a boxing ring around the characters – skilfully emphasises the tight-knit, oft oppressive living situation. Whilst the stylistic choice not to include the full tenement set sacrifices the sense of an omnipresent community, it pays dividends in highlighting the universal themes of the play. Free of historical markers, the empty stage reminds the audience that this particular tale of love and hubris could be from any time and any place.
In keeping with the sense of timeless tragedy, Alfieri is the character who most explicitly ties A View From the Bridge to its roots in Greek drama. Michael Gould’s troubled lawyer picks his way around the set; the only character allowed beyond the bounds of the rectangle stage in a nod to his outsider status. His scenes with Eddie are electrifying; when Alfieri tries to painstakingly hint around Eddie’s real problem: “We all love somebody […] but sometimes… there’s too much. You know? There’s too much and it goes where it shouldn’t,” Mark Strong’s face twists in momentary recognition and shame.
The whole cast is excellent. Nicola Walker’s Beatrice is more hard-faced and robust than other portrayals; her pain and bitterness over Eddie’s wandering eye seems to have worn her down to a sharp-edged watchdog. Against her better nature, she cannot quite conceal her resentment towards Phoebe Fox’s Catherine; the scene in which Beatrice tries to tell Catherine to “be [her] own self more” is agonising, the air thick with the painful truths that neither woman can acknowledge.
It’s these unspoken truths that eventually tear Eddie’s world apart. If Eddie Carbone is a tragic figure, he’s a deeply flawed one. The genius of Strong’s performance is that he makes his troubled longshoreman a figure of pity as well as brutality. Eddie wants a black and white world; where people live by codes of honour and debts are repaid. But his own desire for his niece Catherine transgresses against what Alfieri calls the ‘natural’ law; and Strong powerfully shows how Eddie is unable to reconcile these two warring moralities within himself.
Miller’s previous play The Crucible is a fairly straightforward condemnation of naming names; in A View From the Bridge Miller allows a vein of ambivalence to enter the dramatic discourse. Eddie names names not out of fear for his own safety as the Salemites do, but out of a misplaced sense of honour and righteousness. The strengths of Hove’s direction mean Alfieri’s famous last words about the problematic purity in Eddie’s actions are deeply resonant in this production; a lone man left standing on a stage drowned in blood both literal and metaphorical.