An Arthur Miller classic receives a twist of suspended tension, offering a glimmer of hope that tragedy may be averted. Timothy Ramsden reports
A View From the Bridge
By Arthur Miller
Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch, until October 23
Tickets: 01708 443333
Arthur Miller picked up the story of this play from the New York waterfront and turned it into a modern tragedy. Lawyer Alfieri tells us how it will end, with dockworker Eddie Carbone betraying two illegal Italian immigrants because of unspoken jealousy about the relationship between one of them and the teenager Eddie has brought up like a daughter.
For Hornchurch director Matt Devitt, ambiguity of motive is integral to the play. He recalls Catholic childhood Easters, knowing which criminal Pontius Pilate would release, yet he always thought, "Maybe this year it will turn out differently". So with the foretold tragedy of Miller's play. The Queen's production plans to hold back on the tension ending act one, making it seem possible Eddie might not challenge Rodolpho. As Alfieri tells us what will happen, we watch for plot and character turns.
Eddie's wife Beatrice is intuitively aware of Eddie's feelings for the 17-year-old girl he has brought up before Eddie himself is. She does not blame him. For her, "It's Catherine's fault for not acknowledging she's a grown woman and walking about in her slip. And the way she talks is not appropriate." Yet who else can the growing Catherine innocently "practise" her new womanhood on other than this father figure?
"Eddie must know at some deep level his feelings for Catherine are inappropriate and he's going to end up having to fall on his sword," says Matt Devitt. Similarly, her feelings for the handsome 19-year-old Rodolpho cause a hostility Eddie attributes to the young man's manner and behaviour.
"Rodolpho's not the kind of man Eddie has come into contact with [on the waterfront]. To be a man and do ballet is to be gay. It's the biggest smear you can put on a man."
Does Rodolpho want to marry Catherine or just get living rights in America? For Matt Devitt it's another ambiguity. Rodolpho, "is intoxicated with being in America, with the romanticism. In the moment, he has convinced himself Catherine is his girl. Whether there's a moment at 4am when he wakes up with a different consciousness, you would be hard put to say unequivocally." We do not always understand our own motives.
His brother Marco does not accept what Alfieri calls the American way of accepting halves. "Marco represents the old way. He tells Rodolpho to respect Eddie as head of the household. At the end (after Eddie's betrayed them) Marco and Eddie both refuse to accept half. It's the clash of cultures." And, of course, a tragedy.