Set in 1955 Brooklyn, the story centres on an Italian-American family – Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman working on the docks in Red Hook, his wife Beatrice and their niece Catherine. When Beatrice’s impoverished Sicilian cousins come to stay, having entered the US illegally in the hope of finding work, the family unit is disturbed and ultimately torn apart.
Concord College review
Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge is currently being staged by Shropshire Drama Company. Dramatising what Miller had earlier learned about the mob control of the Brooklyn waterfront, and based on a story he had heard in the Brooklyn neighbourhood where he lived, A View From the Bridge is a classic tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal.
Initially a one-act play written as a verse drama but later reworked into a two-act prose play, it was first staged in Sept 1955 against the backdrop of McCarthyism and less than a year after the immigration entry facility at New York’s Ellis Island had been closed. Then, as now, the issue of immigration had political and societal resonance.
In the central role in SDC’s absorbing and brilliantly performed production, Peter Beechey brings Eddie Carbone to life. He conveys the pain of Eddie as a father figure watching his child grow up and away, yet wrestling with the unconscious love that he can not admit – to himself or others. Beechey takes the audience on Eddie’s emotional and tragic journey from the centre of his family unit through his search for a plausible reason to explain his jealousy for his niece’s boyfriend, Rodolpho, to his final act of betrayal and eventual downfall.
Eddie’s wife, Beatrice, is portrayed by Joanna Purslow. She conveys beautifully the deep love Bea has for Eddie. We observe her dawning realisation of Eddie’s feelings for Catherine, her divided loyalties, guilt and the polarisation of her emotions. Yet she still expresses the warmth and domesticity, coupled with a steely resolve, of a 1950s Italian-American homemaker. It is a tender, strong performance.
The fragile and naive niece Catherine, is played by Joanna Foxall in her first performance with SDC. We follow Catherine’s awakening as a woman, her pain from Eddie’s reaction to her burgeoning relationship with Rodolpho and her repulsion in Eddie’s actions.
The production is an ensemble piece with outstanding performances throughout which do justice to one of Miller’s masterpieces. It has attention to detail with convincing accents, costumes and a simple, yet effective, stage design that transports the audience to 1950s Brooklyn. When Beatrice shouts, “What do you want?” she seems to be talking to us all. Eddie’s cry to Marco, “I want my name…” is a reminder to us of the universality of Miller’s work – a search for the individual’s identity within society and the American Dream – the reason that Marco and his brother Rodolpho travel to America and thus spark the fuse for the Carbone’s tragedy.
Rosalind Garrard, the Director of SDC’s A View From the Bridge, asks in her programme notes: ‘Whose view is it?’ I suggest that it is definitely worth going to see this production and trying to decide for yourself.
BA (Hons) American Studies
University of Hull and State University of New York (Albany)