REVIEW: A View From The Bridge, Chichester Festival Theatre ✭✭✭✭

Our very own theatreCat Libby Purves reviews a new revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge playing at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

A View From The Bridge
Jonathan Slinger. Photo: The Other Richard

A View From The Bridge
Chichester Festival Theatre
4 Stars
Book Tickets


The lawyer Alfieri, prowling in memory round Arthur Miller’s stark  tale of immigrant longshoremen on the 1940’s Brooklyn docks,  speaks for all audiences gripped by the misplaced passion and pride of Eddie Carbone. In his final speech he admits that despite the man’s violent, sordid, pointless end “something perversely pure calls to me from his memory, and I mourn him”. It is classic tragedy: one bitter flaw destroying greatness. Carbone’s unfitting possessiveness of the niece he raised makes him borderline insane in his accusations of her young lover, but his life in that hardscrabble community holds proper heroism. Here was a man labouring, supporting, dreaming high hopes for young Catherine, giving space and, above all, omerta to the two cousins from starving Sicily who illegally join the household.  In his unravelling he cries constantly for “respect” and “my name!”, and the anguish is the greater because he know it was he who betrayed that code.

A View From The Bridge
Lamin Touray, Elijah Holloway and Jonathan Slinger. Photo: The Other Richard

Like the Ivo van Hove in 2014, the last big production, director Holly Rose Roughan leaves aside detailed realism and pares down the set to simple impression, with a massive neon title,  sometimes fog or steam around the players, chairs carried on like heavy longshoremen’s burdens, a gallery overhead. It emphasises that it is a play for any century, and any land where poor immigrants arrive wanting only to work hard, send money home, and swerve round the legalities of their position as long as they are protected by a tight community.  An early strength of this production is that Jonathan Slinger’s Eddie is initially less bleak and stern than he has often been: there is attractive humour and warmth in his fondness for Catherine and his enthusiasm for the wonderful smell of the hold in coffee-ships.  His mistrust and dislike of the blond young Rodolfo who likes to sing, cook and help with Catherine’s dressmaking is, before it gets seriously frightening, even quite funny.

A View From The Bridge
Photo: The Other Richard

Rachelle Diedericks’ Catherine is nicely poised too, her body and movements   changing from affectionate childlike innocence to the joyful capering of courtship and then to black fear of the unspoken wrongness of her uncle’s state.  Luke Newberry grows too, as the insouciant Rodolfo stiffens into a resentment to answer Eddie’s: the other illegal is his foil, Tommy Sim’aan a grim, dignified Marco who quietly throws his heart and earnings across thousands of miles to his hungry children.  Kirsty Bushell is terrific in dignity and growing unease as the increasingly frustrated Beatrice. She sees, more and more,  what is twisting in her Eddie’s mind and heart  – “When am I gonna be a wife again?”.

Chichester Festival Theatre
Jonathan Slinger and Kirsty Bushell. Photo: The Other Richard

The private, timeless tragedy unfolds with intense economy.  The only slight unease for me was the casting as Alfieri the lawyer of Nancy Crane, excellent though she is.  Her femaleness works touchingly, credibly when she is trying to head off Eddie’s disastrous intention to scupper Rodolfo and keep Catherine forever bound to him: there, she is any sensible older women talking down a man.  But it is a memory play,  and Miller gives dark tolling poetic to this narrator, not only in that last tremendous tribute but in describing the darkening of Eddie “his eyes like tunnels..a passion entered his body like a stranger..”.  In a play about machismo,  always before in those lines I have found the heaviness of a male voice created an important shudder.

But in the car park I straw-polled a couple of people in the audience who hadn’t known the play before, and they had no such feeling.  It’s a powerful evening anyway, and Slinger’s  Eddie Cargone will stay with me for a long time. Only 11 more performances (I am late with this one) some seats left,  and well worth booking.

A View From The Bridge runs to 28 October 2023

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