A View from the Bridge
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Iain Sinclair’s production is a tightly-packed, short-fused take on Arthur Miller’s powder keg of justice, labour, immigration and betrayal in 1950s Brooklyn
There is nothing gentle about A View from the Bridge. In 1950s Brooklyn, longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Ivan Donato) and his wife Beatrice (Janine Watson) have agreed to house two relatives from Sicily who have entered the country illegally to look for work. Marco (David Soncin) plans to send money home to his wife; their young children are sick and starving. Rodolpho (Lincoln Younes), however, longs to follow the American dream; to do honest work in exchange for a good wage and a good life. Eddie is honoured to house and help the men at first – but when Rodolpho falls in love with Eddie’s live-in niece Catherine (Zoe Terakes), everything changes.
Eddie’s obsession with Catherine is an ugly secret he is struggling to keep hidden, and his assumed ownership of her – coupled by his lust for her, and unease in his own life – overrides his value system. Eddie doesn’t trust Rodolpho and he refuses to accept this match. Rodolpho is gay, he suggests, or just using Catherine as a means to obtain citizenship. There’s no real evidence for these claims, but it’s not long before Eddie is sacrificing his values and his standing in both his family and his community to destroy Catherine’s relationship with Rodolpho.
Red Hook, Eddie’s slice of Brooklyn, is populated by immigrant families. Some have arrived legally, and some have not, but everyone knows that to report undocumented immigrants is to deny them the freedoms they have risked their lives to seek. In Eddie’s circles, to report is to betray your people. It’s considered a deep violation of family and community trust. It’s considered unforgivable.
And yet: Eddie begins to consider reporting Marco and Rodolpho.
Iain Sinclair’s production is a tightly-packed, short-fused take on Arthur Miller’s powder keg of justice, labour, immigration and betrayal. Alfieri (David Lynch), Miller’s Greek chorus, is Sinclair’s vessel for the logical and ethical. Alfieri is our Greek Chorus; he addresses the audience directly, situating us in this world of honour and half-measures, of blood justice and economic struggle, and he is the one who – like us – is strangely drawn into Eddie’s self-destruction. There’s a stillness and authority to Lynch’s performance that runs counter to the full-bodied, passionate acts of the rest of the cast, grounding these acts.
Donato is coiled to the point of breakage as Eddie. His rages don’t simmer to the surface; rather, they are always present there, chafing to be set free. He is excellently matched by Watson’s Beatrice, whose clear-eyed, steel-backed performance is laced with emotional intelligence and constant negotiation. She can only keep so much peace, but she will fight for every ounce of it.
Terakes makes a startling stage debut here as Catherine; her instincts are sharp and her performance complex. She is delighted by Younes’ irrepressible and endlessly charming Rodolpho, and when she is torn between her love for him and Eddie’s hatred of him, that conflict is evident in the twitch of her hands, a reflexive smoothing of her dress.
And Soncin’s Marco, flinty and stoic, is pushed to point of unravelling; when he must confront Eddie his strength is palpable and dangerous.
For two unstoppable hours, Iain Sinclair’s production barrels towards its fatal conclusion. For this spectacle, he and set designer Jonathan Hindmarsh have ringed the stage with audience seating; characters melt into, and appear out of, the audience. They watch from among us when they’re not needed on stage. Bearing witness, as we do from all angles, to what seems like an inevitable end.
Clemence Williams’ sound design is an elegant razor, slicing through and shaping silences with singular, ominous tones; Matt Cox’s lighting design works in tandem with the sound, favouring blackouts as punctuation. These striking choices play out boldly on Hindmarsh’s minimalist set, which features only a bare stage and a single chair.
This production is rough and violent and bluntly moralistic, but there’s a jagged beauty to it, too; it’s as clumsily human as we all are. We’re shaped by our class and economic status; these factors determine our agency, choice and ability to effect change. It perhaps makes us territorial; perhaps we fail our own moral codes; perhaps we feel trapped. A View from the Bridge is all of these struggles writ tragically large, and in this production, it’s gut-wrenching. 1950s Brooklyn feels close enough to touch, and not so far from here.