The West has a fear of immigrants; so how do we retell the stories that tell us how moving away from home can kill?
In the same week in which we once again saw American xenophobia write itself into law, Arthur Miller’s hard and fast immigrant tragedy came to life in Bristol’s Winston Theatre. But, rather like how prejudice always appears to be in a different guise but is fundamentally always the same, this latest retelling of the classic tale has been made into a terrific spectacle whilst barely wavering from what Miller called the “one long line of explosion” that is the plot.
Now it is no easy thing to make a spectacle of a ‘sitting room’ drama, so it is true testament to director Sam Jones that this production achieved it. At the beginning of Act I the audience are introduced to a set in which the centre-stage and backdrop are white and the wings and downstage are black, with the kitchen table, chairs and even vinyl player all a stark white. The theme of colour coordination becomes apparent with the white-overalled Eddie, the grey-skirted Bea and the pink-skirted Catherine, and enacted out of this is a delightful visual metaphor that slowly but surely begins to first reflect and then dominate the plot: with every moment a character displays anger a piece of set is either torn up or coated in paint, leaving a visual scar to remind us of the emotional denigration occurring before our eyes. As symbolically as you like, dutiful housewife Bea attempts to clean up in the quieter scenes, but as Eddie’s psychological condition disintegrates so too does the set – no more so than in a gorgeously gripping sequence in which the chorus, who appear largely to represent Eddie’s mental state, tear off the backdrop to reveal a wall graffitied with words like ‘snitch, coward, rat’. Together with the visual symbolism are the eery sound effects that accompany light changes, the two of which go to create an aesthetic the Winston audience could gorge their senses with.
Ned Costello puts in a marvellous and unforgiving performance as Eddie Carbone; like a hammer that disintegrates with every blow, Costello starts the play thumping about the stage and only very gently and very skilfully begins to let Eddie’s inner vulnerability seep through. Alice Hoskyns as Bea and Phoebe Campbell as Catherine put in similarly assured and sensitive performances, Hoskyns shivering with delight when Catherine lands a job as a stenographer and Campbell achieving that adolescent tempestuousness in her relationship with Rudolpho. Special mention must go to Jonas Moore and Tullio Campanale, who, as Rudolpho and Marco respectively, light up the script with their simultaneously hilarious and conflicted characters. Moore in particular achieves a sweet obliviousness that contrasts perfectly with the blunt jealousy of Costello’s Eddie, the indelicate nature of which is in turn contrasted with the sage Alfieri, played with an air of nostalgia by the quietly authoritative Nathan Sames.
DramSoc’s ‘A View From the Bridge’ is undoubtedly excellent: it is visually fascinating and it threads the psychological needle so subtly that you only realise how absorbed you are when you find yourself jumping out your seat. The only clear problem is that it sometimes fails to punch when it needs to; the second half in particular suffers from strange periods of slowness when really the pace ought to be rising exponentially. Other than that and perhaps the odd moment of actors lacking confidence, this is a superb production that deserves to be seen.