Blistering and visceral and abrasive: it burns and then it blows
Blistering and visceral and abrasive, A View From the Bridge at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatre is a virtuosic version of this violent tale about betrayal, visas, and virility. A Greek tragedy that, like its protagonist, gets going gently but grows angrier as the time passes, the play is as pertinent and provocative now as ever, and in an interpretation as great as this, the text glows perceptively, and then ignites with gutting power.
New York, New York: a place for opportunity and escape, now and in the fifties, where Arthur Miller’s play finds its feet. This is Brooklyn, urban and buzzing with grinding background noise from Max Pappenheim, Anisha Fields’s gritty, barebones set that’s built-up and knocked-about from the beginning, and a busy neighbourhood bulked out with the general public. This is Miller’s milieu, a multi-cultural community where masculinity is king and character is not to be compromised; merciless but mercurial, it takes only two Italian immigrants to crack it. Welcomed into the world of Eddie, his beloved, daughter-like ward Catherine and his warm but critically aware wife Beatrice, director Mike Tweddle winds the tension like wool around a spool, the action well-contained in Matthew Graham’s stark-and-stilly lit spaces until it spills out in the last, destructive acts.
From the Bard’s Macbeth to Miller’s Bridge, the Factory Company are fantastic: authentic in their acting and their accents, performances feel freshly-minted and finely-crafted. As Eddie, Mark Letheren is a fighter, preferring playing with his fists to voicing his thoughts, but he’s also threatened: physically, by Aaron Anthony’s proud and principled Marco, the famous chair-lift triumphantly and ominously closing the Act I, and, in his rival for Catherine’s affections, Joseph Tweedale’s affable Rudolpho, whose thoughtfulness and effeminacy is an affront to his reputation at work and at rest.
With Laura Waldren’s wide-eyed Catherine, Tweedale’s Rudolpho’s virility is validated by the love that develops between them – there’s wonder when the loveable lad admits its not ‘anything to eat’ that he’s desiring – and Eddie’s visceral, lip-locking attack on the couple only drives Catherine away and devastates Eddie; in a moment that foreshadows the finale, Letheren’s Eddie is the victim of his own violence. As the loving but unloved Beatrice, Katy Stephens is biting but bruised, and Alfieri, lawyer and bard of this Brooklyn tale, is affectionately and authoritatively acted by Simon Armstrong.
This is A View From the Bridge that won’t ‘settle for half and like it better’: it burns, and then it blows.