A View from the Bridge
Until Sat Jun 7
© Jan Versweyveld
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Time Out says
Posted: Mon Apr 14 2014
‘Something perversely pure calls to me from his memory,’ says lawyer Alfieri of Eddie, the granite-like Italian-American protagonist of Arthur Miller’s epochal ‘A View from the Bridge’.
This purity is is at the heart of revered Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s production, which distils Miller’s 1955 play to its white hot, diamond-hard essence.
The set is an enormous black box, which opens up to reveal a white rectangle of floor. There is almost nothing else there: virtually no props, with the lighting bright, sterile and constant. When the cast (barefoot, drably-dressed) are supposed to sit on chairs, they perch on the edge of the rectangle. The only special effects are the showers that bookend the two-hour, interval free production, and the haunting music that plays constantly – ambient sighs, disorientating metronomic drum ticks, sanctified choral washes.
Though there are no actual walls, the cast look like they’re being kept inside some enormous glass tank. Perhaps that’s a means of concentrating the drama; or perhaps it’s a nod to the title – to the people of New York, the Italian American community, in all its vibrancy and tragedy, is just a view from the (Brooklyn) bridge; here they’re similarly distanced from the Young Vic crowd, creatures placed in a box for observation.
And what creatures. Making his return to the theatre after 12 years, Mark Strong is astonishingly good as Eddie, the impassive patriarch of the Carbone family. Muscular, taciturn and harshly honourable, he is a thing of seemingly indestructible solidity and purpose, but his passion for his coltish niece Catherine (rising star Phoebe Fox, superb) is the chink through which his whole soul will be wrenched out .
Some scenes, such as the one in which the family and their lodgers engage in a slowed down, soporific dialogue as the drums thud-thud away, are masterclasses in directorial virtuosity. But van Hove doesn’t tinker for the sake of it, and most of the time he just gives us magnified, streamlined Miller. Free of distracting clutter, Strong’s performance is titanic: Eddie’s righteous sabotage of everything he hold dear smashes home with the fury of the great tragedies.