In 20-odd years of visiting this theatre, I’ve never seen its timbers shaken as hard as they are by this powerful staging of Arthur Miller’s 1955 tragedy.
How it will go down with the Ensemble’s 11am crowd is anyone’s guess.
It begins quietly, with lawyer-chorus Alfieri (David Lynch, one of several veterans of the debut season) addressing the audience, recalling a case that haunts him.
The view from the bridge is his, one that encompasses Old World and New World, ancient blood feud and modern day justice:
“The flat air in my office suddenly washes in with the green scent of the sea, the dust in this air is blown away and the thought comes that in some Caesar’s year, in Calabria perhaps or on the cliff at Syracuse, another lawyer, quite differently dressed, heard the same complaint and sat there as powerless as I, and watched it run its bloody course …”
That course was Eddie Carbone’s, a middle-aged longshoreman whose devotion to his late sister’s daughter Catherine became a consuming obsession after she fell for the younger of two illegal migrants Eddie is sheltering in his home.
Driven by his demons and misplaced passion, Eddie violated a strict community taboo. The consequences were deadly.
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In his own introduction to A View from the Bridge, Miller described the play’s Broadway debut as “hard, telegraphic, unadorned drama.”
This stripped-back Iain Sinclair-directed production, which debuted at the Old Fitzroy Theatre to universal critical acclaim in 2017, honours that conception with almost Puritanical rigour. Eddie’s home in Red Hook, Brooklyn, is distilled to a bare wooden floor and a single chair. The environment – its tensions and its mores – are embodied in the characters rather than displayed in a naturalistic set.
The acting is frequently electrifying. Anthony Gooley’s Eddie jangles your nerves, but before his temperamental simmer turns to boil, he illuminates other facets of Eddie’s character. We see flashes of self-aware humour, glimpses of the man his wary wife Beatrice (a superb Janine Watson) so misses.
Zoe Terakes is another veteran of that first production and her portrayal of the teenaged Catherine, further honed in a Melbourne Theatre Company production (also directed by Sinclair), has acquired new layers of emotion and physical detail.
David Soncin offers warmth and single-minded steeliness as the hard-working Italian migrant Marco. Scott Lee is appealing as the singing, dress-making Rodolpho, Eddie’s unwitting rival for Catherine’s affections.
Some of the Ensemble’s audience may find A View from the Bridge too spare, too raw. The amount of emotion it generates is atypical for this theatre. But once Miller’s tragic wheel starts rolling, I think most will find themselves drawn to the edge of seats they’re more accustomed to settling back into.
A View from the Bridge also plays IPAC, Wollongong, August 28-31