Writer: Arthur Miller
Director: Rebecca Kinder
Reviewer: Carol Evans
The Public Reviews Rating:
Suppressed passion, honour, jealousy and tribal loyalties are the themes at the heart of Arthur Miller’s powerful play, A View from the Bridge. Set in a rundown Italian-American waterfront community in 1950s Brooklyn, its focus is Eddie Carbone, a docker, whose over-protective love for his niece Catherine has dark and tragic consequences. He and his wife Beatrice have brought up the orphaned Catherine as their own daughter but when two illegal immigrants, Bea’s cousins, arrive from Sicily, Eddie’s paternal feelings are challenged. As to whether Eddie’s inclinations really are more fatherly than they should be remains ambivalent in this somewhat static student production from Oxford University’s Broken Lyre Productions. There are hints, certainly, for example, when his sexually frustrated wife Beatrice (Lauren Hyett) tells Eddie that his leanings are with “someone else”, but there is little body language that endorses this.
What is evident, however, is that Eddie is intensely angry and consumed with overwhelming jealousy when the blossoming teenage Catherine falls for the blond-haired, rather effeminate Rodolpho and announces she is going to marry him.
The story unfolds through the chorus-like figure of the community’s lawyer Alfieri (a confident and assured Ed Barr-Sim) who, as narrator, gives the audience an unbiased account of events and hints at their portentous outcome.
The success of this play relies, above all, on a strong lead and Barney White as honest, hardworking, patriarch, Eddie, gives the performance of his life. Angry and humiliated at losing his grip on his family and then tortured into taking the dishonourable step of snitching Bea’s cousins to the Immigration authorities, White is always compelling and in command. Rodolpho and his brother Marco, newly arrived from Sicily to chase the American Dream and find a better life, are the lynchpins that lead to Eddie’s dishonour, loss of face in the community and, finally, death.
As the drama develops, Eddie’s jealousy and distrust of Rodolpho is heightened. He believes Catherine (nice performance from Marie Findlay) is throwing herself away on a man whom he describes as “just ain’t right”. Someone with platinum blond hair, who can cook, make dresses, sing in a high voice and dance, don’t add up to a masculine kind of guy in Eddie’s book. He also thinks Rodolpho has a hidden agenda and is using marriage to remain in America.
This production makes it hard to believe anyone could actually fall for Rodolpho (Peter Huhne) who, especially in the early stages, comes over more as a comic simpleton than someone with magnetic charm. He is hardly helped in this by his rather strange, almost comic hairstyle, nor the auditorium which, atb this performance, mostly consisted of A-level students, erupting with laughter at key moments. This happened, for example, when Rodolpho was leading Catherine into – and then out of – the bedroom, a significant event that finally tips Eddie into the abyss. On the other hand, his brother Marco (deftly played by Joseph Allen) is very convincing. Married with children and sending money back home to support his family, he is as taut as a bow, springing dangerously to uphold Sicilian honour.
Although very commendable, Rebecca Kinder’s production would benefit from more pace – and a less pristine set to reflect the rundown nature of the waterside district. More attention could also be paid to the diction which, particularly in the women, loses some of the play’s important dialogue. It’s all very well for those who have read the play and know what to expect but to any newcomer, key explanatory lines are lost.
Nonetheless, it’s always good to see an Arthur Miller drama and this made for a pleasantly challenging evening.
Runs till Saturday, 13 October
Picture: Noemi Dreksler
A View from the Bridge – Oxford Playhouse,
Tags: A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller, Barney White, Ed Barr-Sim, Joseph Allan, Lauren Hyett, Marie Findlay, Oxford Playhouse, Peter Huhne, Rebecca Kinder, University of Oxford Broken Lyre Productions