Different views of Miller's tale

1st March 1996 at 00:00
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Theatre Royal, York Octagon Theatre, Bolton

That Bolton Octagon's production of A View From the Bridge is set in the round owes much more to long term planning than artistic inspiration - it was specified for Arthur Miller's play before Ian Forrest arrived.

Forrest would probably have preferred a conventional stage, but he sees merit in putting the audience close to the actors. His set is simple, with little furniture and a flexible space that is both street and apartment. Above is a hint of the Brooklyn Bridge and the suggestion of life below.

John Doyle, at York Theatre Royal, is opting for a similarly sparse set on his traditional stage, but he is insisting on a black void surrounding the acting space, rather than the usual hopeful Manhattan silhouettes. He wants to get away from film-associated images.

His bridge is huge, with the claustrophobic room in the foreground and the bridge going upstage in perspective. The wires of the bridge will act as a metaphorical cage for the characters, especially Eddie who is seen as something of a caged tiger.

At Bolton Octagon, Ian Forrest has asked his company to remain as true to the text as possible. "Working on a Miller text is like peeling an onion. You get one layer off, and there's more to go," he says.

The play demands emotional honesty. Actors need to make connections with their own families and learn about other people's. "You can't get away from the fact that these are real people with true emotional vibes, problems, dilemmas and passions," he says. "It becomes quite operatic in its emotional breadth. "

John Doyle sees A View From the Bridge as having passions on the scale of Greek classical tragedy. His approach is highly theatrical, verging on the expressionistic. He has asked his actors to concentrate on "a style of acting that allows people to express physically what they feel inside. We are so used to understated, cinematic acting but these people aren't used to understated emotions - they're Italians! It's a scale of acting that we accept in Greek tragedy, but we don't somehow expect in a 1955 play."

A View from the Bridge , at York Theatre Royal March 7 to 23, details 01904 623568; and at Bolton Octagon until March 23, details 01204 520661

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