Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Re-review: A View From The Bridge

You can read my original review here, of the production that eventually made it to #2 in my best shows of 2014 - a result only unusual in that most other blogs and reviews put Ivo van Hove's production of A View From The Bridge at #1. The original cast from the Young Vic's production has come along for the West End transfer to Wyndhams, led by Mark Strong as Eddie Carbone, the Brooklyn longshoreman whose tragedy is that he never recognises his own attraction to his niece Katie (Phoebe Fox,) even as it makes him bring his life crashing down around him. The production originally played in thrust, something Jan Versweyveld's design attempts to replicate by putting two banks of seating on stage, either side of the enclosed performance area; it's a successful recreation of the design, and even from a seat much further away than last time, I didn't feel the experience was lessened - after all, the effect was always one of making us distant, helpless observers of the inevitable tragedy.

I've seen people compare the design to a clinical experiment, but I still got the same feeling as before, of some kind of ritual space, treated by the actors with the respect afforded the arena for an epic battle; the ominous drumming that increasingly punctuates the ambient soundtrack (Faure’s Requiem, apparently) only adds to this effect.

I was worried seeing it again might not live up to my strong impressions from last year, or the semi-legendary status this production has already achieved, but that wasn't the case; if anything, knowing both how the story would play out and how van Hove would stage it made the building tension even more effective, as Eddie pursues his obsession, unaware of how dangerous an enemy he's making in the silent Marco (Emun Elliot.) Strong has said he sees Eddie as completely oblivious to anything beyond fatherly feelings for Katie, and this comes across in his performance - his lack of self-awareness makes him forge on through everyone else's warnings and objections, lending the production the clean tragic scope van Hove wanted to strip Arthur Miller's play down to. Though Strong's performance and van Hove's direction are as powerful as everyone says, it would be wrong to forget the other performances that make the evening chillingly effective - Nicola Walker and Michael Gould as wife and lawyer respectively are helpless to stop the inevitable, and if anyone ever doubted Luke Norris' ability to enter a room and sweep a young girl off her feet, the reaction to him of the group of sixth-form girls in the Upper Circle should put paid to that. Even if it hadn't become the sensation it has, my own initial reaction to A View From The Bridge had given it a lot to live up to, but there's nothing about this West End transfer that disappointed me.

A View From The Bridge by Arthur Miller is booking until the 11th of April at Wyndhams Theatre.

Running time: 2 hours straight through.

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