It’s rare to come across a production as perfect as Ivo Van Hove’s revival of Arthur Miller’s play A View from the Bridge. Transferring to the Wyndham’s Theatre earlier in the year, it started life in the Young Vic in 2014 with rave reviews. Well, deservedly so.
For anyone unfamiliar with the story, it focuses on Eddie Carbone, an Italian American who lives with his wife Beatrice and their niece Catherine. When Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rudolpho arrive illegally and decide to stay with the Carbones, trouble is afoot – Rudolpho and Catherine decide they want to get married and Eddie is firmly against the idea. Beatrice, believing Eddie is lusting after Catherine, attempts to force her out, while Marco becomes defensive when threatened with deportation.
And in Van Hove’s production the world around these actions is stripped back to the bare essentials. Simple lighting and a phenomenal set design by Jan Versweyveld leave the action exposed in its rawest form. A plain black wall, door cavity, white floor and a low bench surrounding the stage are used to suggest the locations throughout.
It’s a testament to Van Hove’s vision that it works so well. Without the distraction of the world around them, the words of the play are given a new intensity previously unseen. This is as much about using silences and the suggestion of internal debate as it is about the action on stage.
In the central role, Mark Strong balances Eddie’s inner torment with his apparent jealousy, over protectiveness and prejudice. This isn’t a performance – for the production’s two hour running time, Strong is Eddie Carbone. Never quite sure of his intentions and with an imposing stature, he dominates the stage around him. If there’s a performance deserving of an Olivier nomination, this is it, so it’s a good job he has one.
But this has to be one of the strongest casts in London right now. Not a single weak link between them. How Nicola Walker hasn’t had more recognition for her Beatrice I don’t know. It would be easy to be overshadowed by Strong but she more than holds her own – a powerful counterpart to Eddie but at the same time an insecure wife.
Phoebe Fox as Catherine (also nominated in this year’s Olivier’s) balances the childish tendencies with the woman who wants to break free, although at times her accent had a habit of slipping into Irish. And Emun Elliott as Marco and Luke Norris as Rudolpho do a great job as the honest cousins who leave you questioning whether their intentions are true.
Finally as our narrator Alfieri, Michael Gould transforms from finely dressed lawyer to a destroyed onlooker covered in blood. Watching on from the sidelines (quite literally in this production) he is an ever-present party whose hands are tied as he despairs at the actions on stage. Curled up in ball in the corner, only sparingly becoming part of the story himself.
Special mention in this production has to go to Tom Gibbons, whose sound design adds an intensity to both the silences and action. From the constant low rumbling that builds throughout, to the music that frames the production as the curtain rises on Eddie showering himself and closes on a bloodbath.