Aleks Sierz looks at a play that explores the difference between the rule of law and a sense of justice
A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
When Arthur Miller's 1956 play A View from the Bridge was first produced in Britain, the theatre censor objected to the scene where the working-class anti-hero Eddie Carbone kisses another man on the lips - today, controversy is more likely to come from the play's themes of incest and illegal immigration.
The title refers to New York's Brooklyn Bridge, from which the play's lawyer narrator, Alfieri, watches a private tragedy in the context of the Italian community. Eddie's possessive affection for Catherine, the niece he and his wife have brought up, is threatened when she falls in love with Rodolpho, an illegal immigrant. To keep them apart, Eddie informs on Rodolpho - with tragic results. Director Toby Frow says: "One of the central themes is the idea of personal justice, with Alfieri constantly redefining the difference between law and justice. And the question arises whether society is better run by the law or by a sense of justice. Like all good playwrights, Miller poses the question but doesn't answer it."
The play is a "Greek tragedy set in modern times. It's about how the individual relates to society and I think Miller explores this in all his plays," says Frow. He wants to get away from stage designs that "show a little Manhattan skyline, and to emphasise instead the fact that the story takes place in a slum". What fascinates Frow is that the play is about "people who don't know how to lie - in a sense, all the characters have a kind of purity. It's about people who have no way of stepping outside themselves and looking at their feelings. The relationship between Eddie and Catherine is laden with sexuality, but neither of them has a clue that it is. " Despite this, the work remains relevant and young audiences should be "strongly encouraged to question, as Rodolpho does, the values of the American Dream".
A View from the Bridge runs from September 26 to October 18. Tel: 0121 236 4455. Education department offers workshops (September 22-October 17), theatre days (October 9, 14) and a post-show talk (October 7).