FringeReview UK 2023
In one sense avowedly not a classic production, Holly Race Roughan explicitly invokes the classics on Prozac where simpler means might have found more truth. Subtexts are amped, the overall feel is of a production telling us everything with large masks on. Perhaps Miller would have recognised it, if details could stop stabbing us with neon.
Nevertheless that flayed ancient drama’s a strong reason to see it. That, and Race Roughan’s recognition of the way such drama accelerates inexorably. Here, the hurtling much shorter second act contains a thrilling impulsion and catastrophe that had the audience on its feet. Mostly that’s responding to a great play, but latterly this production carries that charge. Nevertheless some core performances render this as much a plea for understanding as ever, as all round us dog-whistles become horribly audible, from ministers’ drivelling on television.
Directed by Holly Race Roughan, Set & Costume Designer Moi Tran, Lighting Designer Alex Fernandes, Composer & Sound Director Max Perryment, Fight Director Yarit Dor, Casting Director Becky Paris
Voice & Dialect Coach Aundrea Fudge, Associate Director Emily Ling Williams, Associate Set & Costume Designer Mona Camille, Associate Sound Designer Keegan Curran, Consulting Designer Loren Elstein
Production Manager James Dawson, Thomas Langford, Wardrobe Manager Su Newell,
Company Stage Manager Niki Colclough, Deputy Stage Manager Emma Cook, Assistant Stage Manager Assen Chan
Till October 28th
At a time of immigrant scares and hostile environments, it’s salutary to be reminded that 1955 had answers now literally being drowned out. Arthur Miller saw his A View from the Bridge as indeed looking on a Greek ampitheatre, and his lawyer commentator and futile voice of reason Alfieri (Nancy Crane) as chorus.
In Holly Race Roughan’s visceral, expressionist version arriving at Chichester Festival from Bolton Octagon till October 28th and touring till November 11th, Miller’s careful integration of Greek tragedy with Longshoreman life is blown away. Simmering implicit feelings are semaphored from the start. One of the Longshoreman (Elijah Holloway) several times pirouettes around in explicit signals of feelings invoked.
In Moi Tran’s set we’re literally shown a wood-lipped cauldron, or crucible of primal feelings, a swept stage and the words Red Hook (the locale) picked out in nightclub neon red against a glossy black floor and a couple of chairs. It’s Greek to us. The set’s upper level, a gantry with chairs and staircase emphasise ritual through the suggestion of a nightclub in hell. Like all Tran’s work it’s striking; though if you want to suggest ampitheatres, or just let the play work out, stark plainness shows more the courage and colour of your convictions.
The tragedy of Eddie, a man whose bent affections for both niece and – it’s made even clearer than normal – sheltered ‘submarine’ immigrant Rodolfo – break a kind of primal code of loyalty no law can work against; no laws are being broken.
Crane comes across as slightly muffled addressing as chorus (this could be adjusted) but indelibly-voiced directing her warnings to both Eddie (Jonathan Slinger) and Marco (Tommy Sim’aan); humane rather than loftily detached. If this Alfieri’s quiet insistence, almost pleading can’t persuade with each nuance of understanding, you feel law, the fabric of society, is rent too. We’re in an ampitheatre of agon, revenge, tragedy.
Beatrice (Kirsty Bushell) is the heart of this production: her sense of the ominous and seeking remedy narrows as she searches about the stage. Her affection – and anxiety – for her niece Catherine (Rachelle Diedricks) is palpably tempered by her knowledge of Eddie’s attraction to her; or at least in the beginning his inappropriate care for her wellbeing. Bushell’s Beatrice clearly wants Katie out for her own good, but also hers. And wants Eddie back. Each shock of realisation registers in the moment of discovery.
This Beatrice’s recognition of Eddie’s motives stays only a half-step ahead of the audience, still ahead of everyone else. She slides into fury, dismissal, frantic remedies, each tightening foreboding on her face, yet, loyal to Eddie’s veto, still unable to join her niece’s wedding (you feel Bushell might break out of that, is on the point of doing so). Eventually Bushell leads a howling chorus of grief. This Beatrice makes her own sexual frustration plain if not sensual. Here it’s to “be a wife” – the reverse of The Crucible’s “cold wife”; just as Eddie’s “my name” recalls that play closely, and its loss is as crucial.
Diedricks is equally strong, though less concerned at first, as is right. With Bushell she provides the warmth of a home environment that Eddie strips from them and himself. Diedricks’ almost childlike warmth gradually replaced, she visibly blossoms when dancing with Rodolfo, discovering a different, sexual, warmth (and a moment the production makes clearer than most). The swing she see-saws on is an expressionist invention. It shows her at the start in a literally suspended childhood. Significantly it’s Eddie who swings near the end, after Katie’s given up that role.
Slinger hasn’t the heft of some previous Eddies. He’s lithe, wiry, mobile and dangerous in his swift plunge, though you don’t sense a monumental fall. What he does convey several times is an almost inarticulate seizure; a man staring into his own abyss, oblivious of his agency.
Sim’aan’s warm Marco, reasonable, grateful – this gratitude to Eddie from Marco and Rodolfo is difficult to shift – slowly tries both jesting then exploding with betrayal. His full heritage stands tall, outraged within him. Marco’s transformation is as complete as Eddie’s. Elijah Holloway’s excellent (if needless) dancing aside, he as Mike and Lamin Touray’s truculent Louis gear-shift from bonhomie to quizzical, and their doubling as Immigration Officers are miced up with voices from all round the set in Max Perryment’s thrubbing sound-design, with an ominous, nagging score. And a keening film-verismo aria.
Rodolfo (Luke Newberry) is almost balletically light, can sing ‘Paper Doll’ like a wondering innocent, which to a degree he is. Newberry’s later Rodolfo is quicker in his flexes than some. It’s almost as if he echoes Eddie, for wholly other reasons than Eddie’s confusions.
In one sense avowedly not a classic production, Race Roughan explicitly invokes the classics on Prozac where simpler means might have found more truth. Subtexts are amped, the overall feel is of a production telling us everything with large masks on. That’s a fresh take on Miller’s classic radicalism. Perhaps Miller would have recognised it, if details could stop stabbing us with neon.
Nevertheless that flayed ancient drama’s a strong reason to see it. That, and Race Roughan’s recognition of the way such drama accelerates inexorably. Here, the hurtling much shorter second act contains a thrilling impulsion and catastrophe that had the audience on its feet. Mostly that’s responding to a great play, but latterly this production carries that charge. And with some core performances it renders this as much a plea for understanding as ever, as all round us dog-whistles become horribly audible, from ministers’ drivelling on television.