London – The Broadway Theatre – 5-30 October 2011
A living room and an office some streets away were the settings for this play. The living room had a round table in the centre with a white tablecloth spread over it. On the table were a bowl of fruit and a small tray of condiments. There were chairs around the table and a lamp hanging down above it, giving a low light. There was a rocking chair to the side near the open doorway and an old record player near the front.
The outside area was indicated by a clever half-wall that had a staggered decline, showing the split between the inner and outer areas. There was a cityscape of the view of the Statue of Liberty across the river and street walls with washing hanging up high. The streets were close together and an office sat up on a platform. The office had a desk in the middle and a chair either side. A beautiful art deco lampshade hung down low above it all. Old film posters were scattered all around, made to look aged and worn. It was a nice effect. 1950/60’s music played to set the scene.
The lights darkened and the words ‘Brooklyn 1950’ appeared on the wall. An old black and white film played, showing people, workers and others going about their lives. On completion, various characters came out onto the stage holding each other and crying. They looked at an unknown tragedy as a man picked up a hat. The beginning of the play was the end of the play and it was then told in flashback.
A View From The Bridge is a story about a man, Eddie, his wife, Beatrice, and their niece, Catherine, living in a small ground floor flat in Brooklyn. He works on the docks, she is a housewife and the niece is studying stenography. Beatrice’s cousins come to stay with her from Italy. There is one problem however: they have to come to America illegally and hide in Eddie’s home. This is where the trouble starts as people’s prejudices and true natures are revealed.
Amy Brangwyn played Catherine. She was a soft spoken, sweet and affectionate Catherine. A young lady who was never allowed to grow up but became a woman and found her voice. It was interesting to watch Catherine move and interact with the other characters. Amy Brangwyn found Catherine’s immaturity and made it endearing. She was a kind young woman who wanted the best for all and did all she could for those around her. You felt compassion for her and wanted to help and guide her. She became a little sister you wanted to protect. Amy Brangwyn captured her well. She developed and grew through the play. Her American accent was soft and playful with an affectionate whine. She was a welcome balance to the other personalities.
Edward Franson played Marco. He was a presence to be reckoned with. He commanded respect yet was also kind and loving. He played a manly man who worked hard, loved his family and kept to himself, unless provoked. Edward Franson was skilled at using silence to act. He acted the silence expertly. When Marco was around, attention drew back to him to see what he was doing and thinking. Edward Franson understood the bond between a family and played it well. He displayed respect for others and also a fierce belief in respect versus disrespect and family pride. His Italian accent was deep and full of emotion. It was beautiful to watch.
Lowri Lewis played Beatrice. Beatrice was a wife and she was controlled. She had lost herself somewhere between marriage and home life and was trying to find her way back. It was exciting to see Lowri Lewis bring the spirit in Beatrice to the surface a lot in the early narrative. She would be quiet and submissive at one point and then burst through and stand up for herself or Catherine. The contrast was interesting. Lowri Lewis played the forgotten wife fittingly. It was hard to know how far the oppression went at times. Lowri Lewis would then have a certain facial expression or clasp of her chest and it said it all. Her American accent was full of a woman’s strength and fight with a hint of defeat.
Matthew McPherson played Mike and one of the immigration officers. He was a cool and creepy associate of Eddie. He was hard to figure out, which was good. He seemed to have a hidden agenda. He appeared just at the inopportune moment with his friend Louis. Matthew McPherson played him like an undercover character, trying to fit in with the boys but always alert and listening. It was a good method as his scenes were few but he made them count. His knowing smiles and sarcastic laughs left unease and questioning. His American accent was like someone who is so self-assured and overconfident with bad intention that it becomes unsettling.
Danny Mahoney played Rodolpho. He was a sweet and affectionate young man who cared for all around him. He had the wide-eyed innocence of a child as he explored the new city. Danny Mahoney made Rodolpho warm and tender. He was accommodating and honest. It was nice to see the way Danny Mahoney made Rodolpho naïve in his manner and in his understanding. He would stand in a confident way that would crumble at any minute when doubt crept into his mind. He was always halfway between assurance and confusion. Hi Italian accent was melodic and charming.
Ben Margalith played Louis and the other immigration officer. He was the constant shadow of Mike. He was quiet. He wanted to be where the action was but was happy to observe and be associated with the cool crowd. Rather than having any attention paid to him, he would quietly nod or make a small comment. It was enough to be involved and not too much to be asked to do anything that put him in focus. He was another character that had a whole story hidden and brewing in the background. The thoughtful glances brought up questions to his real motives. Ben Margalith portrayed Louis well, especially as his part was also modest but he too made it count.
Keith Parry played Alfieri. He was the lawyer who was telling the story as a flashback; the narrator with the knowledge. He was very calm and calculating. Keith Parry made Alfieri take charge of the story. He held the audience with his narration and deep considered American accent. He was calm and seemed to know what was going to happen before the people knew; he could see it all unfold. He sat with authority and stood with intent. He brought the audience in and kept them with him, addressing them, telling them in order for us to understand the unfolding events. Keith Parry was a very relaxed Alfieri. He did not need to stress, he just needed to explain, advise and release them to their own devices.
William Harrison Wallace played Eddie. Eddie was the man of the house who cared for his family. He had basic needs and desires and was happy with his lot. However, situations changed and Eddie became an angry, possessive, aggressive presence in the house, whether he was there or not. He left his mark on all the members of the family, in the walls, on the streets. William Harrison Wallace played Eddie skilfully. It was hard to watch how expertly he made Eddie into quite an horrible character. His husky American accent fitted Eddie well and helped paint his whole persona. Eddie gradually morphed into a shadow of the man he was, due to his own ignorance and due to pride.
Cameron Jack’s direction was sound. He took each character and gave them their own story. They had their own way to move and interact with the others. The use of a raised platform for Alfieri to tell his story from was inventive. It worked well as it kept the focus on him when necessary. He then remained a whisper in the background, ready to take the stage again to give more volume to the story. The set design and dressing set the scene for 1950’s America and the use of the off stage area behind the audience for actors to enter and exit from for certain parts of the play was ideal. It gave the impression of coming from somewhere far, coming with purpose and leaving with reluctance. The more energetic scenes between certain characters were staged well and were believable. The set placed the story well. The costumes were fitting and enhanced it all.
Pride was the downfall of the characters in the story. It says that pride comes before a fall and it is so true. A View From The Bridge is an hard play to watch. The story is depressing and the situation grim. The hatred and oppression was obvious throughout. The way the characters were headed could be seen and the sabotage being laid out was apparent. It tells a story of how cruel people can be to one another. It does not give any hope for the future. It does not offer a solution. It holds you in a bad place for a very long time. Go with the expectation to feel pain, anguish and despondency. Once it ends, leave it there. Do not take the weight with you. Good people are all around. There is always hope.
Cast: Amy Brangwyn – Catherine. Edward Franson – Marco. Lowri Lewis – Beatrice. Matthew McPherson – Mike. Danny Mahoney – Rodolpho. Ben Margalith – Louis. Keith Parry – Alfieri. William Harrison Wallace – Eddie.
Company: Director – Cameron Jack. Writer – Arthur Miller.
(c) Chantal Pierre Packer 2011