Tag Archives: Stephen Unwin

Views From A Bum on A View From The Bridge

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 26th March, 2015

 

Eddie Carbone is a hothead but a decent fella. He hasn’t got much but he has brought up his niece as though she is his own daughter. He welcomes his wife’s Italian cousins into his home when they arrive as illegal immigrants looking for work. Except perhaps he is a little too close to his niece, a little too possessive.

When new arrival Rodolpho turns niece Catherine’s head, Eddie can’t handle it, and the fuse paper is lit in Arthur Miller’s explosive powder keg of a play.

Jonathan Guy Lewis is utterly compelling as the volatile Eddie, whose emotions are never far from the surface. He is supported by an excellent cast: Daisy Boulton’s Catherine and Teresa Banham’s Beatrice are strong characters, although dominated by the man in their life. James Rastall catches the eye as the handsome Rodolpho, with his bright head of blond hair, his snake hips and animated conversation. His rendition of ‘Paper Doll’ is both hilarious and seductive. And he cooks, and makes clothes – what more could anyone want? – but he also brings out the worst in his host: Eddie’s jealousy.

We see all this from the remove of a narrator – Michael Brandon as Alfieri, a lawyer. It’s a framing device that leads us into the slum neighbourhood, in what is now a period piece. Brandon lends authenticity to the production but I have to say, on all sides, the Noo Yoik accents are particularly good. Liz Ashcroft’s evocative set – all telegraph poles and a fire escape – gives us enough of an impression of the place, while Paul Pyant’s lighting keeps things dingy and grim. Director Stephen Unwin offsets the narrated passages with freeze-frames: despite the naturalism, it is a story we are being told. It’s a gripping production, superbly presented and performed.

And Miller’s writing has a relevance today with immigration being such a hot topic. We are shown a human face to the migrant workers, desperate to make life better for the folks they have had to leave behind.   When it goes belly-up for Rodolpho and Marco (Philip Cairns) we understand exactly what is at stake.

The tragedy is inevitable but nonetheless shocking – electrifying in fact. Eddie may only be a king in his mind but Miller shows us, even the ordinary man can be brought down by a fatal flaw in his nature.

The production is the result of a consortium of theatres, sharing resources and, of course, the cost. It’s the way forward for regional productions and an excellent way to ensure high quality work being seen outside of the capital.

aviewfromthebridge-sq

Advertisements

Haunting

GHOSTS

Festival Theatre, Malvern, Wednesday 27th November, 2013

 

Henrik Ibsen’s tragedy was a bit of a flop in its day, but of course I was too young to have seen it back then.  At last, English Touring Theatre is bringing this top quality production to the provinces and we get to see what all the commotion was about.

Upcoming artist Osvald has returned to his widowed mother’s home for the summer.  Mother is busy preparing to open an orphanage in her late husband’s name to commemorate a decade of him being in the ground.  Osvald has an eye on Regina the maid – although his intentions are not wholly romantic… As the action unfolds, family secrets emerge from the shadows.  I won’t go into detail but there is a whiff of incest in the air, degenerative disease and assisted suicide – Osvald has inherited more than a propensity for pipe-smoking from his dear old dead dad…

Amazingly, it’s not heavy-going at all.  Stephen Unwin directs his own (superb) translation of the Norwegian, allowing brief moments of light among all the clouds.  There is warmth and levity in this storm- and doom-laden household, principally from Pip Donaghy’s portrayal of Engstrand, the Santa-bearded workman, remonstrating with daughter Regina (Florence Hall) in Highlands twangs.  Patrick Drury makes a commanding Pastor Manders, a cleric who is not as holier-than-thou as he pretends, but the key players are Kelly Hunter as the Widow Alving and Mark Quartley as her ailing son.

These last two are utterly compelling in a powerful denouement, pitched perfectly against the dawning of a new day – Simon Higlett’s set draws from Edvard Munch’s original designs; the back wall is dominated by an enormous picture window – we watch the weather over the mountains; clouds roll, rain falls… and ultimately the sun comes up to dazzle us as dark truths are brought into the light.

Ibsen was a forerunner in the movement from melodrama to Naturalism in 19th century theatre, and while there is something of the Greek tragedies in this piece, something a little Oedipussy in the central relationship, the play reminds us of Ibsen’s importance and brilliance.

Image