While a small theatre can threaten to hinder the dramatics of a performance, Bedlam Theatre’s size lends itself to the claustrophobic confines of Eddie Carbone’s mind in its recent production of A View From The Bridge. Director Andra Gavin pulls off a conventional, yet effective, rendition of Arthur Miller’s iconic play with a talented cast that draws the audience into the climactic drama of this timeless tragedy.
Set in 1950s America, the story centres on Eddie Carbone’s possessive love of his teenage niece, Catherine, which feeds a violent conflict when they take in two illegal immigrants from Italy. As a romance blossoms between Catherine and one of the immigrants, Rodolpho, so does Eddie’s seemingly unqualified hate towards him and subsequently, the firm grip on his family and mental state deteriorate in an enrapturing on-stage fashion.
Gavin’s casting is one of the play’s most admirable accomplishments, fronted by Paddy Echlin driving the dialogue with a stunning embodiment of Eddie that undoubtedly lifts the performance above the ordinary. His chewy, Italian-American accent never falters as his explosive passion is equally matched with authentic delivery that dictates the direction of dialogue. Tilly Botsford more than holds her own as she brings an emphatic performance as Eddie’s wife, Beatrice, that matches Echlin’s presence.
While Eddie and Beatrice portray dynamic individuals, the aesthetic juxtaposition of the two Italian cousins works to magnify Rodolpho’s idiosyncrasies that Eddie so despises. The choice of Leo Sartain fulfils the overtly masculine role that the character Marco plays in contrast with the wiry, adolescence of Henry Coldstream’s Rodolpho. Coldstream’s shot of platinum blonde and colourful costume symbolise the energetic change that he brings against the bleak blues, browns and greys of America’s working class.
The domestic sphere, to which the characters are confined in the first half, eventually disintegrates into the rest of the half-illuminated stage as Gavin articulates the theme of controlled interiority versus chaotic exteriority. Albeit predictable, the eventual expansion of the box style-stage, reflective of Eddie’s loss of control, brings the immediacy of the action into the audience that successfully intensifies the play’s climactic moments. This exciting threat of violence fortunately curbs the unexpected laughter that Echlin seems to evoke within the audience from his dry delivery, which somehow lessens the sense of emotional tragedy as a consequence.
As a play designed to be fraught with emotion, the two halves are book-ended with Peter Morrison’s opening and closing monologues as our intradiegtic narrator. As Alfieri, the family lawyer, these evoke a real poignancy derived from an authoritative rhetoric that escapes monotony and is appropriately accompanied by melancholic music to stir the emotions of the audience.
A tour-de-force from Andra Gavin and cast, although one might imagine a further staging of this play could wring out even deeper emotion from Miller’s tragic masterpiece.
A View From the Bridge
Photo credit: Louis Caro