'Every little detail added to the pressure-boiler atmosphere'Sophie Leydon

I was fairly sceptical about going to yet another production of Arthur Miller’s classic 50s tragedy A View from the Bridge. The play tells the tragic story of Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman living with his wife and niece, whose apparently comfortable life is ruptured by the arrival of two illegal Italian immigrants. It’s reasonable to say this play has been botched a fair few times – but this week’s Pembroke Players production really did do it justice.

The theatre-in-the-round staging and the small space of the Pembroke New Cellars meant that nobody could hide from the claustrophobic intensity of Eddie’s tragic fall. With the audience sitting just inches away from the actors, every look, every gesture, and every facial expression became important, making this a play where silences seemed to matter more than words. Tensions manifested themselves in occasional hushes – during dinner, during the sexually charged conversations between Eddie and his niece Catherine, during the strained exchanges between Eddie and Beatrice – and these quiet scenes wrenched open the emotional dynamics that lie beneath the play’s relationships.

We couldn’t help feeling enraptured. In fact, it didn’t really feel like we were watching this tragedy unfold; it felt like we were a part of it. Harry Redding’s performance of Eddie, so perfectly offset by Christian Hines as Marco, was fervently emotional. And when it came to the famous ‘Eddie gaze’, Redding was spot on, expressing Eddie’s rabid fury with an almost fearful realism, reminiscent of Alex DeLarge’s glaring eyes at the opening of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange.

Throughout the performance, the entire audience sat in silent, unflinching awe. Jessica Murdoch’s characterisation of Catherine is similarly praiseworthy – her childish innocence and naivety were perfectly depicted in her playful interactions with her uncle Eddie and her cheerful affection for Rodolpho, the camp Italian immigrant played excellently by Dan Blick. Murdoch’s performance rendered Catherine a 20th-century American Ophelia, the simple, innocent and endearing sufferer.

Under Myles O’Gorman’s direction, every little detail added to the pressure-boiler atmosphere: the ominous torchlight of the choral narrator, Alfieri, made even more menacing by his calm and somewhat detached narrations; the image of Marco holding the chair threateningly above Eddie’s head, a fearful portent of the play’s later events; or the final, highly emotional and yet somewhat morbid slow-dancing to The Mills Brothers’ jazz classic, ‘Paper Doll’. Each of these carefully stylised moments added to the force of what unravelled on stage.

All of the actors were constantly on stage, so that their presence was never forgotten, making every decision made by a character seem all the more important in terms of its effects. Their presence seemed to show the inescapable nature of their role in the imminent bloodshed. The play’s use of physical theatre is also worthy of note, even if it was unexpected and somewhat out of place. The fact that the other actors carried the telephone onto the stage and placed it in Eddie’s hands seemed to demonstrate how they would be directly affected by his actions. When the other characters dragged Eddie down to the floor, it appeared not only to show their condemnation of his phone-call, but also to reflect the inevitability of his tragic trajectory.

It’s true that there were a few problems: the lighting was occasionally blinding, making it hard to observe the nuances of actors’ expressions or gestures, and every now and then an actor’s accent slipped or their intonations seemed forced. But these are petty complaints overshadowed by what really was a magnificent production of a difficult play. The use of silence, stares, violence, raised voices, physical theatre, music, setting – everything came together to create a chilling evening of theatre. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough

Sponsored links