Having studied Arthur Miller at GCSE and A-Level, I had suspected I would not be able to enjoy the play without flashbacks of sweaty classrooms and pre-pubescent boys giggling in the famous ‘kiss’ scene. Although the truckload of school pupils attending the performance did nothing to suppress these memories (their ill-timed laughter was awkward and distracting) the show nonetheless prevailed. Though children have no place in my snobby English undergrad audience ideal, the cast soon distracted me.
The play itself managed to captivate the sense of rawness and genuineness that is so crucial to a one-set, wordy play. The stage opened to Ed Barr-Sim’s Alfieri, who instantly countered my accent worries: his dialect was straight out from the New York and he held his own with a confidence I have seen lacking from some ‘professional’ actors.
The ambitious set managed to visually separate him from the claustrophobic dining room of the Carbone’s house; the two worlds of the successful immigrant lawyer and the struggling native longshoremen are smashed together on this stage, forcing the audience into making direct comparisons between the social classes.
Catherine (Marie Findlay) I initially found too gimmicky and her accent was slightly more Britney than Brooklyn, but I soon began to consider the fact her character demands stereotyping – she is the ultimate objectified young woman, reflecting a male ideal. In this sense her performance is genius; making the audience feel that she is the product of a male ‘idea’ alerts us to the conflict of autonomy and obedience.
Eddie himself, played by Barney White, was enchanting. There was a slight hint that he’d been watching too many Al Capone movies but his portrayal balanced perfectly the amount of pathos and frustration we could afford him. Even when the juvenile element of the audience erupted into random fits of laughter just as he was in the midst of an emotionally charged monologue, he maintained his composure and chiselled much of the play’s emotional power as a whole.
Lauren Hyett’s Beatrice, as the woman torn between jealousy, love and responsibility excelled. The growing sense of injustice in the constraints put upon her gender and the grittiness of an American Dream that never came to fruition were poignant and emotive.
The play deserves no less than four stars; moments of acting brilliance backed up by consistent realism and a high-calibre set, sound design and lighting scheme.
**** (4 STARS)
A View from the Bridge plays at the Oxford Playhouse until Saturday of 1st week. Student tickets £9.50.