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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A View from the Bridge, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

A View from the Bridge

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

When John Dove staged Death of a Salesman for the Royal Lyceum in 2004, it was the start of a five-play Arthur Miller odyssey that reaches its triumphant, soul-shaking end in A View from the Bridge. No one would call Dove a flashy director; no intrusive concepts or clever deconstructions for him. Instead, what he has shown – whether in the watertight tragedy of All My Sons or the novice experiment of The Man Who Had All the Luck – is a clear-headed gift for letting Miller's plays sing.

He puts such steady heat under A View from the Bridge, it feels ready to boil over at any moment. Even in the domestic opening scene where we get to know longshoreman Eddie Carbone, his blossoming niece Catherine and pragmatic wife Beatrice, the director conveys a terrifying sense of volatility. Miller is meddling with primal forces – incest, sexuality, impotence, honour, justice, coming of age – and Dove shows how close these destructive passions are to breaking through the sheen of everyday family life.

We see this especially in Stanley Townsend's Eddie, a heavy-eyed bear of a man, turning from cuddly to untamed with each line. With his low-slung belt emphasising a middle-aged paunch, Eddie is a well-liked working man, patriarchal but not tyrannical, who finds himself gripped by impulses he can neither articulate nor comprehend. The shrewd Beatrice can see he has displaced his lust for Catherine by turning on the girl's boyfriend, the illegal immigrant Rodolpho, but Eddie is a creature without self-reflection and has no such insight.

Much as we know it will end badly, Eddie has no control over his own destiny, and Townsend suggests it could still go either way. It's a compelling performance, even if he admits defeat a scene too early, making his demise seem less the fall of a mighty beast than a broken animal being put out of its misery.

In Eddie's tragedy, Miller was consciously drawing on an archetypal form. Equally vivid is his vision of an economic system in which work is the defining force. It is why the immigrants have left Italy, why Catherine yearns to leave school, and why Eddie, who was once forced to traipse from dock to dock in search of a job, genuinely desires better things for his niece. It is another reason the play is a masterpiece, and why Dove's production marks the completion of a masterly series. (Pictured: Kathryn Howden and Stanley Townsend Pic Douglas McBride)

© Mark Fisher 2011
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