A View From the Bridge
Jenny King for The Touring Consortium at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham
The last time I saw Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge was seven years ago in the West End - and it was one of the most memorable nights I've ever spent in the theatre. The cast included Bernard Hill, Charlotte Cornwell and a rather young Joseph Fiennes whose performances were so stunning that I looked on seeing the production again with a certain amount of trepidation as well as excitement.
A large number of schoolchildren also added to the sense of foreboding as I knew from experience that youngsters can let their emotions get the better of them in the Theatre Royal's lofty surroundings.
I need not have worried as young and old alike were enraptured with Kenny Ireland's interpretation of Miller's classic tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal.
Set in the late 1940s in Brooklyn, the play crackles with tension when Eddie Carbone and his wife Beatrice take in her two cousins who are illegal immigrants. It was written against the background of Americans being pressurised into informing on friends and colleagues as part of a crackdown on immigration. Needless to say, it is just as relevant today.
Miller introduces a narrator to set up the action rather than spending part of the first act explaining the relationship between the characters. This means you quickly get to know the main players and have empathy with their circumstances.
Robert Gwilym, best-known as Dr Max Gallagher in Casualty, plays Eddie and immerses himself into the role to such an extent that you never contemplate his previous persona. He is suitably troubled as the man who brings up his niece Catherine and is unwilling to acknowledge that she is old enough to fall in love. His obsession for her and his inability to express his true feelings, which lead to a menacing undercurrent, earn our sympathy and understanding. The role could almost have been written for Gwilym.
Sorcha Cusack slides into the role of Beatrice just as comfortably. She is excellent as the supportive wife who sees through her husband's angst despite the possible devastating, family-destroying consequences.
Katherine Holme (Catherine) is in her second production of A View From The Bridge, moving effortlessly from adolescence into adulthood and wanting her independence without realising the hypnotic effect she has on her uncle.
The part played by Fiennes in the West End, Rodolpho, is in the capable hands of Tadeusz Pasternak - and on this performance he could become as big a star. He is the jovial, fun-loving Italian who appears to be in love with Catherine although there is always a doubt that his intentions may not be honourable and he may be using her simply to obtain an American passport.
It would be remiss of me not to mention dialect coach William Conacher. His attention to detail means the cast are masters of the Brooklyn and Italian accents heard throughout the play. There are only odd occasions when the dialogue slips by without being intelligible.
A View From The Bridge is a powerful, thought-provoking tragedy which is not without humour before the denouement. The play needs a good cast and production to do it justice. The view was pretty spectacular from where I was sitting.
The production goes on to Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton and Festival Theatre, Malvern (ends December 7th)
Reviewer: Steve Orme