Reviewed by Janine Rumble
A View from the Bridge is a play written by the American playwright, Arthur Miller. It is a play set in the 1950s in Red Hook, an area in Brooklyn across the river from the bright lights of Manhattan. The play is narrated by Alfieri, played by Robert Pickavance, who is an American lawyer, who in the opening scene describes the history of immigrants to America, with a focus on immigrants from Italy. He describes how in the past, Red Hook suffered with violence because of the Sicilian immigrants. He then moves on to narrate the story of Eddie Carbone, an Italian American longshoreman, his wife Beatrice and their orphaned niece Catherine. Alfieri, then continues to chronicle the story throughout the play that describes their lives and the struggles they face living and working by the docks.
Catherine has lived with her aunt and uncle since she was orphaned as a youngster. Her uncle has always been overprotective of her, but as she grows and nears her eighteenth birthday, the audience is witness to her uncle’s changing thoughts of his niece and his declining relationship with his ever-suffering wife. It begins to affect his mental health and this is further exacerbated when he agrees to take two illegal immigrants from Italy into his home. The two illegal immigrants are his wife’s cousins from Italy, Marco and Rodolpho. Marco is married with children, but Rodolpho soon falls in love Catherine, sending Eddie and his emotions spiralling with tragic and devastating consequences for them all.
Arthur Miller first heard the tale of a longshoreman who had informed the Immigration Bureau about two brothers who were staying in his house illegally to break up the engagement of one of the brothers and his niece when he worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Miller was fascinated by the tale and wanted to discover what would make a man stoop so low. This play is Miller’s answer as to why.
It is a highly, emotionally charged play, full of passion, anger and desperation and this is portrayed so well by each of the actors. The amazingly talented Nicholas Karim, who if you knew no different would think he was from Brooklyn, plays the stereotypical Italian American Eddie Carbone. He has the swagger, the temper, the accent and the passion of how an Italian American has been portrayed as in films for decades. He completely embodies the proud Italian American heritage and loyalty to one’s family, so it is shocking to watch his decent into a world against everything he used to believe in because of his misplaced feelings for his niece.
The talented Laura Pyper plays his long-suffering wife, Beatrice, with the equally talented Lili Miller playing their niece Catherine. Both women are a part of the same family and the same love triangle. Beatrice tries, without her husband realising what she is doing, to create a distance between Eddie and Catherine as she realises her husband’s feelings for their young niece. She also tries to encourage Catherine to grow up and discover a life out of their four walls. Things change when she meets, falls in love and wants to marry one of her Aunt’s illegal immigrant cousin, Rodolpho, played by Pedro Leandro. He portrays the sensitive and passionate man, with a dream to be an American citizen and to marry his love Catherine, so well, that at points when Eddie yells at Alfiero, that ‘the boy is not right…’ you as a member of the audience begin to question whether he is in fact speaking the truth and a moment of doubt passes over you. Rodolpho is silent, brooding, the talented Reuben Johnson, his character’s love and passion, plays level-headed brother passionately for providing for and protecting his family shines through.
All of the scenes in the play take you on a rollercoaster tour of emotions, from hope to despair, pride to jealousy, anger to despair and every emotion in between. The actors are terrific and feed off of each other to put in a stellar performance.
I enjoyed the play and the actor’s performances and would recommend that if you are a fan of Arthur Miller then you should go to see the play. However, even if you are not, then I would still recommend you see it. However, do not go to see it if angst and sadness is not something you enjoy seeing on stage.
The stage design and lighting are very simple and clever. Typical metal stairways and walkways are used to represent the tenement building that the Carbone’s live in. The house set is simply two windows hanging underneath a metal walkway and table and chairs and a rocking chair in the corner. Then when the scene changed to by the water the backdrop changed colour to blue and the who stage was the docks, even with the tables in the middle of the stage, you still believed it was the docks because of the noise of the ships and the birds and because of the blue lighting. Props were simple and the costumes were traditional 1950’s style clothing, which added to the impact of the play.
I watched this play in the Royal Theatre. It is a lovely old building (built in 1884) connected to the newer Derngate Theatre. It retains many of the old features, which make it a beautiful theatre to be in. Although the seats can become uncomfortable after sitting on them for a long while. The Royal & Derngate is easy to get to with car parks within short walking distances away. There is disabled access throughout both buildings and the facilities are clean and presentable. There are a number of bars throughout the complex selling a range of alcohol, soft drinks, ice cream, sweets and theatre programmes. All staff are polite, helpful and courteous. I would recommend going to the Royal for the sense of history and nostalgia that only an old theatre can bring.
Tickets cost from £11 (booking fees may apply).
A View from the Bridge is at the Royal & Derngate from 15-26 October 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk or call the box office on 01604 624811.
Royal & Derngate, Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP | 01604 624811