Brighton Fringe 2010
A View from the Bridge
New Venture Theatre Productions
Venue: New Venture Theatre
New Venture and director Mark Wilson bring Arthur Miller’s tragedy to life.
The original version of ‘A View from the Bridge’, by Arthur Miller, suffered from a uncertain start, beginning as one act play called ‘The Hook’ (which influenced the film ‘On the Waterfront’ starring a young Marlon Brando) written at the tail end of the McCarthy era in 1955 and was later rewritten as a two act play after a frosty reception on Broadway and some accusations of being ‘un-American’. Much has been written about the classical Greek thematic undertones; the main protagonist Eddie has strong sexual feelings for his attractive niece, Catherine, even more taboo as he has been her guardian for most of her life. Actors face a challenge to perform this strong, complicated and sexually charged psychological material with any degree of credibility.
For the most part, the cast of the NVT succeeded in doing this well and the play was very well directed by the seasoned and loving hand of Mark Wilson. The audience reaction was unanimously enthusiastic giving the cast a near rapturous applause.
The performance was in the round adaptable studio of the NVT. Ingenious juxtaposing of seating gave a cosy ‘ don’t-worry-everything-will-be-fine-we-are-all-in-this-together’ feeling although I wondered if this was appropriate to the delicate subject matter, exploring such a shadow side of human nature.
The start of the play was initially disappointing as Jerry Lyne playing the lawyer/narrator role of Alfieri seemed too relaxed in a role that required energy and definition. I would have liked to see him project his voice and authority more, to paint a bolder image with his presence. Nevertheless, as a lawyer he acted very reliably, giving a well-honed, warm and naturalistic counterpoint to the increasingly troubled Eddie in their scenes together.
I like to see realistic clothing on characters so they look like they live in their environment and I was irked to see Eddie come on stage, after a very hard day on the docks, looking fresh as a daisy, clean shaven and sweat free and I was baffled by the terminal fight scene where no blood or weapons were visible or suggested. This attention to finer detail is important and elevates the performance of the actors on stage.
The actor playing Eddie has a daunting and gruelling task to maintain the integrity of Arthur Miller’s bold writing. Bill Arundel solidly led the story with great ability and unwavering confidence. I would like to see more breadth of emotion from him without losing his reassuring presence he brought to the piece, fully exploring the potential passion and yearning for the lovely Catherine.
Hannah Brain captured the fresh brightness of Catherine with a delightful sincerity, and although her accent slipped once or twice this did not diminish our empathy for her. Nick Heanen succeeded in avoiding stereotyping Rodolpho (literally fresh off the boat) by focusing on the truth of his characters situation, playing it consistently well and from the heart.
Jeff Smith played Marco, one of the most believable performances that evening, with a fierce stillness that I enjoyed immensely, combining a star combination of quality acting and obvious respect for fellow actors on stage.
To that end, this unselfish attitude was epitomised by Tessa Pointing’s portrayal of Beatrice who did that increasingly rare thing – she also concentrated on making others look good without hardly drawing attention to herself. The authenticity of her character was such that her devotion to Eddie shone through her eyes and when she told Eddie that she loved him, long after he had fallen from grace in our eyes, we accepted this without question.Tessas’ performance was, I believe, an understated shining example of truthful acting – others could well to do to look, listen and learn. Her sterling performance, as well as all the cast, especially gave the piece it’s claim to Greek archetypal status and was a homage to theatre itself.
The supporting actors, all of whom I want to mention in dispatches here discharged their duties exceedingly well, and I note that Mark Mitchell (Louis) and Ben Pritchard (Mike), passed my visual authentication test that I discussed earlier in this review by looking, walking and talking the part of fellow longshoreman – well done.
Chris Jenkins, Sarah Lauridsen, Mark Green, Dan Walker and Patrick Turner Lee were all loyal to the cause and contributed admirably with great attention and energy. Patrick Turner Lee has written what I think is the best personal biography I’ve ever read in a programme; "I’m 51 years old and started doing acting work after a 20 year break by coming to classes in November 2009." I loved that and all of the audience loved Patrick in the short time he was on stage.
I enjoyed this production overall, but was often hungry for a stronger sense of that harsh and very dirty Brooklyn that Arthur Miller obviously knew well and to that end I gave this show four stars, not the hallowed five. More grit can produce the pearls that we all want.
Well done to all the cast and crew as their combined hard work were both tangible and very well received on the night.