27 April 2014

A View from the Bridge – Young Vic, Saturday 3rd April 2014

Alfieri, an Italian-American lawyer in his fifties, enters the stage and sits in his office. Talking from his desk to the audience, he introduces the story of Eddie Carbone. Alfieri compares himself to a lawyer in Caesar's time, powerless to watch as the events of history run their bloody course.
As Eddie enters his home two fellow Longshoremen, Mike and Louis, greet him. Eddie's niece, Catherine, reaches out the window and waves to them.  Eddie scolds Catherine for flirting with the boys so blatantly.   Beatrice (Eddie’s partner) convinces Eddie to let Catherine take a job as a stenographer down by the docks. Eddie informs Beatrice that her cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, will be arriving from Italy that night. Beatrice and Eddie plan to hide Marco and Rodolpho who plan to work in the country illegally to send money home.
Marco tells them that he has three children and a wife back home that he will be sending money to. Rodolpho, his young blonde brother, has no family and intends to stay in the country as long as possible. Rodolpho entertains everyone with his version of the jazz tune, "Paper Doll."
In the following weeks, Rodolpho and Catherine spend a great deal of time together, which worries Eddie. Eddie thinks that Rodolpho is untrustworthy and  becomes jealous of the time that Rodolpho spends with Catherine, telling her that  Rodolpho just wants to marry her to in order to get his Green Card and become a legal citizen, but she does not listen. Rodolpho develops a reputation at the docks for being quite a joker, which further embarrasses Eddie. Beatrice becomes  more aware than ever of the attention Eddie is giving Catherine and  encourages Catherine to get married to Rodolpho if that is what she wants to do.  Eddie, still frustrated,  visits Alfieri and asks if there is any way he can get rid of Rodolpho by law, but Alfieri assures him there is not. Alfieri tells Eddie that he needs to let Catherine go.
Eddie becomes increasingly jealous of Rodolpho and resents  the fact that Rodolpho thinks Catherine is looser than Italian girls. He threatens Rodolpho in a pretend boxing match, which is stopped by Catherine and Beatrice.
Time passes.  Rodolpho and Catherine are left alone in the house and have sex .  Eddie comes home drunk and  kisses Catherine, then pins Rodolpho to the floor and kisses him as well. He visits Alfieri  again, who repeatedly tells him to let Catherine go her own way.  Instead, Eddie calls the Immigration Bureau and reports the two men as illegal aliens. Immigration officials arrive and arrest them. As he is being taken away, Marco spits in Eddie's face. Alfieri pays bail for the two men and arranges the marriage between Catherine and Rodolpho. On the day of the wedding, Marco returns to the house for revenge. Eddie lunges into Marco with a knife. Marco turns  the knife on Eddie and kills him.
Marco –Emun Elliott
Catherine – Phoebe Fox
Alfieri – Michael Gould
Louis – Richard Hansell
Rodolpho – Luke Norris
Eddie – Mark Strong
Beatrice – Nicola Walker
Creative Team:
Written by Arthur Miller
Director – Ivo van Hove
Designer – Jan Versweyveld
Costumes – An D’Huys
Sound – Tom Gibbons
Well, peeps, to say that it has been busy here at RTR Towers is like saying that Claudia Winkelman’s fringe needs a bit of a trim.  In fact, its been so bloody hectic that its taken me nearly 3 weeks to find the time (and energy) to sit down and scribble this.  So my powers of recall are really being stretched a little here.  I can’t say that I was really looking forward to this – Arthur Miller plays don’t exactly have a reputation for being a laugh a minute, do they?  But I surprised myself by enjoying it rather more than I had expected to, with a fair few caveats. There were some excellent performances, and the story is gripping, but the direction is just so bloody up its own arse that I came out thinking that I had never yet seen anything so effing pretentious – which rather ruined the evening. 
Firstly, there’s the set.  Or, more correctly, firstly there isn’t the set.  When you enter the auditorium you are faced with an enormous grey block which fills the entire acting area.  This, it transpires, is essentially the curtain – it rises up slowly and more or less disappears into the ceiling, although there is plenty left of it to obstruct the sightlines of anyone sitting in the upper gallery.  It reveals a slightly raised podium, edged on all sides  by a calf-high glass wall, on the top of which there is a black ledge.  This surrounds a shiny white floor.  This is “the set”.  There is no furniture, no scenery, just the shiny white floor.  Its so stark  that it would make minimalism look cluttered.  I imagine that this is what Kevin McCloud’s living room looks like.  However, although it takes a bit of getting used to, I can cope with it for a couple of hours (there is no interval, folks – go to the toilet first). 
Secondly, there’s the soundtrack.  The opening scene starts and is accompanied by suitably gothic and portentious music which swells and then fades away, to be replaced by super-minimalist “music” which basically consists of a series of loud “doinks” separated by about 8 seconds of silence.  The “doinking” goes on for quite some time, and then we get some churchy choral singing, then its back to the gothic, which is followed again by the “doinking” and then repeat ad nauseum all the way to the bloody end.  Now, I am the first to admit that suitable music during the performance can heighten the scene and add to the tension and so on and so forth, all well and good – but there is no end to it.  The loop lasts the entire two hours – and by 45 minutes in you are sitting there thinking “I can’t take any more of this doinking” and longing for a bit of peace and quiet.  After an hour, I was at screaming pitch. Rather than adding to the atmosphere, the sounds become intrusive; its so insistent that it becomes annoying and however hard you try to screen it out, there’s no escaping the fact that in 10 minutes or so, you know you’re due for another round of doinks.  The climax of the play, which is incredibly dramatic and the kind of moment that produces that all-encompassing lack of sound in the audience as they hone in on what is unfolding before their eyes (and which I am wont to describe as “a silence”) is completely ruined by the soundtrack.  I suspect that half the applause was through sheer relief that the doinking was finally over. 
More than slightly odd is the treatment of the Italian characters.  Two of them are meant to be literally “just off the banana boat” (or perhaps the “pasta ship”), yet arrive in New York speaking absolutely faultless cut glass English while around them the natives are all Noo-Yorking like MaryBeth Lacey (from Cagney and…..) on speed. 
And then there’s the shoes.  Or lack thereof.  For some reason, the director has come up with the concept that nobody wears any. Fully clothed they may be (and partially clothed occasionally) but its “no shoes anyone.  Let’s make this edgy and relevant by not wearing any shoes or socks.  No, I know it makes no sense, people, but fuck knows what else I am going to do with this production so we’ll be doing it barefoot”  I mean, WTF is that all about - Apart from uber-wank, of course?  In fact, its all so uber-wank that Him Indoors found it necessary to express his opinion so loudly on the way out of the theatre and down the street to the tube station that I had to snap at him several times to belt up because a) it was highly embarrassing and b) I thought we were going to get lynched by other audience members who were enthusing about the production with such twitterati-esque rapture that it was surprising, frankly, that the pavement wasn’t awash with spunk.
Summary: a fine and gripping production rendered more or less unbearable by the pretentiousness of the “concept”.  The lack of scenery I could cope with once I had adjusted to the idea, but the soundtrack is irritating beyond belief and if you are in any way phobic about other people’s feet, definitely not one for you. 

What the critics said: