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Friday, 20 May 2011

Theatre - A View From the Bridge - Royal Exchange

Star rating – 9/10

It is such sheer pleasure to be totally transported by a great play, a fine cast, and a fitting set – and the Royal Exchange have hit the spot with their latest production of the Arthur Miller masterpiece ‘A View from the Bridge’. It’s a classic Greek tragedy in a way, powerful in its themes and poignant in the imperfections and desires of its characters.

Set in 1950’s Brooklyn, the sparse set it evocative of life for working immigrant communities in and around the docks. It is the story of one man, Eddie Carbone, and how his love and desire to protect his orphaned niece Catherine, leads to tragedy. His family is rocked with the arrival of two cousins of his wife Beatrice, who are coming to America looking for work from poverty stricken Sicily as illegal immigrants, and who are given cover and shelter in the small Carbone family home.

The acting is sublime, truly making the audience forget that they are watching a play, as they become immersed in the powerful drama. Con O’Neill is fabulous as the passionate and hard working Eddie. Anna Francolini excels as his loyal and loving, but increasingly exasperated, wife Beatrice. She tries to stop Eddie being so protective over his young niece, played by Leila Mimmack, as she wants to leave college to get a secretarial job in an engineering firm. He wants to stop her from becoming a woman, scared of losing her to the wicked ways of the world, and especially to the men who inhabit it. These three actors form a very impressive trio, with Brooklyn accents to die for, and an easy and accomplished stage presence together.

Catherine inevitably falls in love with one of the Sicilian cousins, Rodolpho. Eddie does not like it one bit. You can guess the rest. This is powerful stuff from the Royal Exchange, and one of their best productions for a while. The only gripe I would comment on is the accent of Ian Redford as Alfieri, the narrator and lawyer. He gives only a suggestion of an American accent, which is a bit disconcerting and breaks the spell of the production a bit. But otherwise a first class performance in a timeless classic play, which has humour, affection, wry comedy, great fight scenes, and bags of tragedy.

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