A View from the Bridge
Arthur Miller in a Belgium adaptation and English translation by De Roovers
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival at Meridian Quays
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a production described as “a new English translation” of De Roovers' Belgium adaptation of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. Was this to be an entirely new play shorn of Miller’s distinctive and naturalistic poetic text?
I needn’t have worried. There is still the recognisable language and meaning of the original. It is shorter than most productions but essential elements remain with only one major transgression that comes towards the end of the play.
De Roovers gives us an engaging, non-naturalistic, minimalist performance mostly taking place on a group of forty-nine squares painted red that sit on a central part of gravel stones which stretch out over a wide, bleak area. The set consists of one chair, a stool and, off to the far, left a solitary 'phone box.
At times, the action is accompanied by three musicians sitting off to the right.
The show is given an extra edge by its outdoor setting in Meridian Quays against a backdrop of West India Dock and the huge towers of Canary Wharf where work vast numbers of migrant labour.
This is a play about the enormous contribution made by migrants and the tragedy created by a failure to respect their rights.
Robby Cleiren is a stolid Eddie planting himself in his very first appearance at the front of the square performance space, speaking directly ahead, barely looking at his wife Beatrice (Sara de Bosschere) or his niece Catherine (Sofie Sente) who sit behind to his right. He stands legs slightly apart in front and above them. Only his words suggest he has any relationship with them beyond his authority over them.
That authority begins to diminish with the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins Marco (Adriaan Van Den Hoof) and Rodolpho (Wouter Hendrickx) and nowhere is this more visually obvious than when Rodolpho dances with Catherine and Marco dances with Bea as Eddie sits lonely and isolated behind them.
This is a story of what happens when Eddie imagines his authority is slipping away. Gone from most of this production is the ambiguity of Eddie’s special interest in Catherine. We might miss it entirely but for the moment he kisses her late in the play.
Eddie shows little warmth to the relatives staying with him. They in contrast are respectful and humorous with their account of trying to find work back home. Their plight is depicted sympathetically and when Rodolpho tells Catherine he would not marry a woman simply to remain in America we believe him.
This is an enjoyable, topical production coming at a time when the government is trying to shore up its authority by bargaining with the lives and security of the thousands of migrants who for years have helped to build the United Kingdom. The fate of Eddie Carbone should stand as a warning against the failure to support migrant rights.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna