A View from the Bridge is the recent production from London’s young Vic theatre, beamed across the globes as part of the National Theatre Live series. Dutch theatre director Ivo Van Hove delivers a moody, minimalist production of Arthur Miller’s 1955 play.
Set in Brooklyn in the 1950’s, the play is narrated by Alfieiri (Michael Gould), a lawyer and local identity in the Italian migrant community. Alfieri describes the story of Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) and his family, wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker) and niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox). Working on the docks, Eddie and Beatrice have raised Catherine, supporting her and putting her through school. Catherine is growing up, and having been offered a job is ready to start making her own way in the world. Eddie is resistant to this, although Beatrice encourages him to let Catherine go. Eddie and Beatrice have also agreed to house Beatrice’s two cousins, Marco (Emun Elliott) and Rodolpho (Luke Norris), who are emigrating illegally from Italy.
With a full household, tensions start to fray. Rodolpho and Catherine have begun to see each other romantically, against Eddie’s wishes and without his permission. Eddie’s unnatural affection for Catherine becomes more and more evident, as he voices his objections to the pairing. Eddie and Beatrice’s marriage takes a blow as Beatrice starts to understand the troubling degree of affection Eddie has for his niece. In looking for ways to separate Catherine and Rodolpho, Eddie contemplates turning in Rodolpho and Marco to the immigration officials.
Mark Strong’s performance as Eddie is superb, he is powerful and his masculinity is palpable. He seems poised to explode from the outset, and when the play reaches its climax his actions are not unexpected. Nicola Walker as Beatrice is great. She is wise from the start – to Eddie and Catherine – attune to the undercurrent of emotions in her own home.
The minimalist set design serves to accentuate the tension, which director Ivo Van Hove has tried to exploit. The problem is that the tension is simply too much, possibly an issue of translation from the live theatre atmosphere to the reproduction in the cinema. The tension becomes sickening, the final scene is almost ghastly. The soundtrack is another example of the minimalist styling of the production again resulting in a sickening sensation. At certain points of the play a lone drumbeat punctuates the drama, throbbing in nauseating manner.
In many ways it is difficult to fault this production as there really isn’t anything wrong with it. That is possibly the problem; the play is something of an overindulgence. Too much tension, too much minimalism – if that is even possible. While some of the other plays in the National Theatre Live series have worked well on the cinema screen, this one falls flat. Everything about the production is professional: acting, direction, set design and sound are all impeccable. But that’s the play. The film makes for quite frustrating viewing.
National Theatre Live – A View from the Bridge (2014) is in Australian cinemas from 9 May through Sharmill Films.