Robert Tanitch reviews A View from the Bridge at The Young Vic, London SE1
In ancient times tragedies were always about great men and women, kings, queens, generals, figures of myth, whose fatal flaws in their characters led directly to their deaths. What was original about the plays Arthur Miller wrote was that they were tragedies of ordinary working class men.
A View from the Bridge, one of the great American plays, which premiered in 1955, is in the tragic Greek classical mould, even to a Chorus; but the drama as written is rooted in a 20th century Brooklyn longshoreman’s home and workplace reality.
Eddie Carbone’s flaw is his lust for his seventeen year old niece, Catherine; and it is his lust and his jealousy (when she falls in love with Rodolpho, an illegal immigrant) which drives him to destroy himself and those around him.
Eddie (Mark Strong), unable to persuade Catherine (Phoebe Fox) that Rodolpho (Luke Norris) only wants to marry her to get an American passport, then tries to prove to her that the boy is homosexual. When this fails to stop their marriage, he reports Rodolpho to the Immigration Authorities.
Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s production gets rid of all the domestic and social trappings Arthur Miller deliberately put into the play and acts it out without interval on a bare thrust stage as if it were a Greek tragedy. There are no props. A chair has to be brought on for a crucial scene.
The production, stark, brutal and fiercely acted though it is, does not have the emotional impact Alan Ayckbourn’s production with Michael Gambon had; nor does it have the emotional impact Lindsay Posner’s production with Ken Stott had. The artificiality and stylization are an interesting experiment for those who know Arthur Miller’s play well, but they get in the way.