Linguistically and theatrically, few things irritate me more than the overuse of the term “modern classic”. For me, to be deemed a “modern classic” not only does the piece of work need to be a quality piece of literature/art but it needs to have stood the test of time, transcending generations, to be relevant in the modern-day. Few works embody this, however, more than Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge, currently showing at York Theatre Royal which I went to see this week.
The play, first staged in 1955, has been created by amateur and professional theatre groups globally; the show is narrated by Alfieri (Robert Pickavance) who tells the story of protagonist Eddie Carbone (Nicholas Karimi) and his demise and downfall over the course of a period of months. The York adaptation, directed by Juliet Foster, starts with characterful music and a dark atmospheric scene that sees a shipment crate being lowered to the ground, metaphorical for the jobs most of the characters have in the play. What is being lowered though is the set that stays with us for the entirety, the inside of Eddie Carbone’s house.
Juliet Forster’s dramatisation of A View From The Bridge is inch perfect. The casting decision of Karimi is truly inspired. Eddie Carbone is as intense and viciously energetic as in any rendition I’ve seen – from the start, following an opening monologue from Alfieri, Eddie’s character is typified through the calm, sitting down in his front room rocking chair followed by the antithesis of his personality, the raging, angry Eddie who reacts this way every time he is displeased or unimpressed with the actions of Catherine, his niece whom he has brought up as his own.
Eddie’s unravelling throughout is complemented by a stunning performance from Laura Piper (Beatrice), his wife, and her cousin Marco (Reuben Johnson) and brother Rodolpho (Pedro Leonardo) who migrate to live with them. In an age of domestic violence being frequently in the news, and under the challenge of racism and anti-immigration stances felt nationally and globally, Eddie Carbone’s character and A View From The Bridge, feel wholly relevant for the modern day, despite being set over 70 years prior to 2019.
The show is an emotional rollercoaster, the way Miller intended with empathy felt at some point for every character. The highlights in particular come when Eddie and Alfieri are alone with the two personalities clashing and contrasting in scenes of acting brilliance. The genius of the direction by Juliet Forster really comes to fore via the community ensemble which at times, make the play standout from all other adaptations gone before. The energetic, dramatic final scene is played out within the neighbourhood and the use of this ensemble, makes it genuinely feel like the entire block is watching the death of Eddie Carbone play out.
Whether it’s the first time or the tenth time you’ve seen this play, it rarely offers surprises, rather much of the storyline is rather predictable – but what Juliet Forster and this splendid cast manage to deliver is suspense and tension throughout and the final scene is nothing short of brilliant in delivering a suitable finale to an outstanding performance. I left the theatre so impressed with what I had just watched I almost bought tickets for the following night on the spot. This adaptation is a work of art of itself and proves without any doubt, Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge, is a modern classic worth shouting about.