mark Strong is currently enjoying a return to the stage after a 12 year break, in the Young Vic’s production of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’, directed by Ivo Van Hove. This play is a modern-classic. Its staging is contemporary and it is hosted at the beautifully ornate Wyndham’s, a theatre so quintessential that it feels like a make-believe place itself.
Its limited eight week run ends in April and tickets are not so easy to come by, though there is still limited availability for midweek and matinee performances. We took a leisurely trip up town one Saturday afternoon and enjoyed a fabulous pre-show lunch at Browns restaurant Leicester Square and watched, through the window at the back, the actors come and go through the Stage Door at the Wyndham’s.
Inside, as the curtain wall rises and an arching hymn plays out, from high overhead water showers down through a grille like rainwater through a gutter into the darkness and onto two silhouetted men washing below. A lawyer (the narrator), steps up from the stalls and introduces the protagonists – New Yorkers struggling to survive in ‘the gullet’, the underbelly of society – as an altogether different species.
Standing in what could be a boxing ring, these men are trapped and exposed in their poverty. They are an economic migrant subset of society, in a pressure-cooker of 1950s Brooklyn. In this place we meet Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong), who is trying to maintain some dignity in near-impossible circumstances.
Eddie and his wife look after his seventeen year old niece, Catherine, who Eddie keeps in a figurative cage of his own protective care. The fragile, strained relationships between Carbone, his wife and their adopted daughter are put to the test when a new wave of Italian immigrants are invited to stay with them in their tiny home. Two Sicilian brothers, one desperate to send money home to his sick children and the other, his younger brother, have come to America for work, adventure and a new life.
A dark mood of paranoia and claustrophobia is created by the arrival of these ‘illegals’ at the home of Carbone, himself a second generation immigrant. When a relationship begins to develop between the younger brother and Carbone’s niece, Eddie feels threatened and becomes intolerant, which leads to a dangerous unravelling of his fragile existence. Prisoners to these tiny hopeless, spaces and their destiny, the protagonists are pressed ever-closer together like rats in a cage.
The simple set works well and performances by Nicola Walker and Mark Strong are particularly powerful and convincing. There is no interval, no let up in the claustrophobia and, where the second half would normally begin, we are rolled straight back into their distorted world while a clock ticks and dialogue has become loaded and awkward.
Is Eddie justifiably protective or is he overly attached to Catherine and unable to let go of her? Will this pressure find a happy resolution or will it force an outcome of more pain and tragedy?
Nothing good can come of this, except very good drama.
A View from the Bridge
by Arthur Miller
Running until April
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