Since its revival at the Young Vic last year, Ivo van Hove’s A View from the Bridge has been on everyone’s lips: it is the show everyone urges you to see, the show no one can get a ticket for, and the show that somehow creates a collective urge to gasp and despair as the final image lands, smacked in our face and haunting us all the way home on the packed tube. Transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, its minimalistic set feels slightly out of place in the grandness of Wyndham’s, shoved into a pompous habitat. But once the play kicks off boy are your eyes transfixed.
Director Ivo van Hove describes the play as “witnessing a car accident that you see a hundred metres before it happens”. We follow the violent crash of Eddie Carbone, an Italian-American longshoreman from a Brooklyn slum, as he struggles with his feelings for Catherine, his niece, and the threat of her Sicilian lover, an illegal immigrant, and the destruction he provokes. The play confronts immigration, but also Eddie’s toxic relationship with his niece, and takes us across the line and into an increasingly uncomfortable territory.
It is hard to find words describing the impact of A View from the Bridge. Your heart is stuck in your throat a while after you leave the theatre. There’s no doubt it’s a play that soars above most. By far one of the best productions I’ve ever seen. The direction is bold, innovative and uncomfortably intimate – Ivo van Hoven is a master of tension and at times the intensity is almost unbearable, slowly emptying the auditorium of air. The acting is remarkable, a rare intoxication of total commitment and all performers seem completely at ease, breathing absolute truth into Arthur Miller’s words.
Mark Strong‘s steely Eddie is violently resisting change but is an alarming pressure cooker ready to explode. His presence is electrifying and as he constantly changes temperature, fighting off his irrational jealousy, we get a sense of the human behind, that there is a potential Eddie Carbone in all of us. His struggle reminds us of our own hidden monsters, and the humanity of the play is highlighted by Nicola Walker’s Beatrice, a wife whose love for her husband drives her into limbo, as she battles off her own jealousy of the unnatural intimacy between him and his niece. Catherine (Phoebe Fox) is caught in the middle, and depicts a young woman coming to terms with growing up and what the consequences of adulthood are. The cast all contribute to the alarming atmosphere of a Greek tragedy gearing itself up for heart-wrecking car crash and despair.
Working with a bare set, brilliantly designed by Jan Versweyveld, we are transported into their minds, forced to read every flinch, not being distracted by fancy effects. The monotonous sound-scape is a lingering warning, and when van Hove finally pulls out the tricks, it’s distraughtly beautiful and cuts right to the bone. Small explorations of abstract movement become a divine expression of the inexpressible, and the final image is as immaculately genius as it is haunting.
This is a menacing revival you cannot, must not miss. If you are so lucky to have your hands on a ticket then you’re in for a hell of a treat.
A View from the Bridge is playing at Wyndham’s Theatre until 11 April. For more information and tickets, see the Wyndham’s Theatre website.