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Theatre review Migrants and machismo

MARY CONWAY recommends you to see an outstandingly acted production of a great play that resonates with modern life

A View from the Bridge
Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London

 

WHEN Dominic West stars in Lindsay Posner’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, you know it’s a winning ticket. 

And indeed it’s a marvellous play, embracing great Shakespearean themes, within the minute proportions of one single household in one specific square mile in a working class, dockworkers’ community under Brooklyn Bridge in the 1950s. The precision could not be more exact.

A period piece, you might think. But nothing could be further from the truth. For this is a play of universal import which Posner directs with immense respect for the original, while also easing out the strands and details that resonate with modern life. 

And what can be more meaningful to us today than a play that explores the impact of illegal immigrants on one simple family?

The family in question here comprises an awkward, three-legged arrangement, whereby longshoreman Eddie Carbone (West) and his wife Beatrice (Kate Fleetwood) act as parents to Beatrice’s 17-year-old niece Catherine (Nia Towle). 

When the play opens, this complex threesome are awaiting the arrival of Beatrice’s two cousins (Marco and Rodolpho) from Italy. Played respectively by Pierro Niel-Mee and Callum Scott Howells, this incoming duo enter the country illegally. Their plight — no work back home where Marco has a wife and children in extremis — so impresses us that we suspend all judgment, ditching political opinion in favour of a deep humanity.

It is a profound study, filled with humour and dramatic urgency, and with characters so real they come to us as living, breathing beings. And when young Catherine is set alight by the quirkily, winning Rodolpho, all hell is let loose.  

And the cast are superb, with West foregoing the expected “I’m the star” performance and immersing himself into the character of Eddie and the whole ensemble with a generosity that can only benefit the play and enhance the authenticity. 

Some aspects of the play uniquely engage a modern audience and Posner eases these out to great effect. The question of whether Rodolpho is gay, for instance, is overtly present in this production and Scott Howells stands out in his portrayal of this highly nuanced, singing, joking chappie. Niel-Mee, meanwhile, captures exactly the desperate passion and fierce physicality of Marco and raises the game at the climax. 

It’s a play that captures with great compassion maleness and the male predicament. Fleetwood and Towle meanwhile subtly display the invisible cord between the two women that’s real and strikes at bigger themes.    

So much of the production is focused on authenticity, humour and dramatic crescendo that its classic tragic structure is underplayed. And, while Peter McKintosh’s set perfectly captures the sombre grey 1950s, and Paul Pyant’s lighting switches the focus in seconds, the driving momentum of a tragedy in the truest sense is fitful.

But this is a small carp, and the beautifully delivered narration by Martin Marquez as lawyer Alfieri more than compensates by spelling out the chilling inevitability of all that happens. 

A great play.

Runs until August 3. Box office: (020) 7930-8800, trh.co.uk.

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