A View from the Bridge, Tobacco Factory, Bristol

THERE could hardly be a more perfect time to stage Arthur Miller’s profoundly moving play A View From the Bridge than in 2018, when our daily attention is focussed on deporting “illegal” immigrants – both from the UK and from Trump’s America.

Mike Tweddle, artistic director of Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bed­minster, chose the play as the second in his inaugural 2018 season, coupled with another family tragedy, Macbeth. That one is about ambition, this about honour and reputation.

Eddie Carbone is a longshoreman, living on the edge of New York, hustling for a living, loading and unloading ocean-going cargo ships in the run-down dockyards of Brooklyn. He and his wife Bea­trice have raised her orphaned niece, with whom Eddie has established an emotional relationship.

Now Catherine is almost 18, aching to leave school and get out into the world, and Eddie just can’t let her go.

When two of Beatrice’s Italian cousins arrive by ship, illegally, to make money to send home to their families, Eddie offers them floor space while they hide from the authorities. But the inevitable happens. The charismatic young Rod­ol­pho and Catherine fall in love.

Miller has created a narrator in the lawyer Alfieri, another Italian immigrant in Brooklyn. As Eddie tries helplessly to stop Catherine and Rodolpho’s romance, Alfieri sees a future  that all his advice cannot stem.

It’s hard to imagine a more subtle, multi-layered or intense production of this play. Staged in the round on a versatile set designed by Anisha Fields, with a soundscape by Max Pappenheim, the tension builds in the audience as it does in the Carbone home.

Simon Armstrong’s lawyer is the voice of fate.  Mark Letheren gives a mesmerising and multi-layered performance as Eddie, a man whose sense of honour and respect overwhelms his ability to see what has happened to him.

Katy Stephens is the anguished but resigned Beatrice and Laura Waldren, a recent Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate, has all the passion and desperation of a young girl caught between childhood and womanhood, unsure of how to respond to her emotions.

As the Italian “submariners” Joseph Tweedale as Rodolpho and  Aaron Anthony as his elder brother Marco embody Italian hope, and the fatal obsession with honour.

This magnificent production avoids caricature, bringing the conflicted relationships to vivid, tense life.

The production continues to 12th May. It is well worth a trip to Bristol.

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