Enter 1950s New York, a time of immigration, integration, transition, love, family and honour. With these overarching themes, and its enigmatic Brooklyn setting, Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge is a timeless play that has captivated audiences since its reworking in 1956. From casual dinner scenes to explosive displays of emotion, the play is set to carry away any audience, from the 1950s to tomorrow, with its carefully crafted script and universally relatable characters.
The play delves into the life of Eddie Carbone, a man of honour and deep-seeded values, who, blinded by these and his love for his niece, Catherine, rapidly becomes the story’s tragic hero. A hard worker who has put everything into giving his family what they need, he wants the best for his niece, and, after welcoming his wife’s immigrant Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolfo, into his home, is unable to comprehend his niece’s love for the latter, losing sight of what is important, and ultimately leading to his downfall.
The Saint spoke to director, Louis Catliff, and assistant director, Elliot Douglas, to obtain an insight into how they intend to adapt Miller’s work in a way that has, as they put it, “hopefully never been done before.” With a play of such high standing, one of the main difficulties, especially for a student production, is how to adapt the play enough to give it a unique take, whilst conserving the essence of the original work. However, talking to both Catliff and Douglas rapidly thwarted my concerns, with their confidence and perspective on the play assuring me that their production is not one to be missed.
Of all things Arthur Miller is known for, his technical approach to naturalistic theatre is one that has struck a chord through most of his plays’ productions. It is his attention to pedantic details that brings such imminent reality to his plays, however, as the term suggests, these ‘pedantic’ details might not always be welcomed by every contemporary audience. As Catliff described, many productions either seek to honour the play’s naturalism entirely, presenting it the way Miller had most likely intended it to be, whilst others seek the complete opposite, “taking it to the absolute extreme.” With this production, Catliff seeks to strike a balance between the two, a feature which he and Douglas believe will be unique to this performance.
Catliff’s view is to “take out the parts that were distracting, such as the eating in the play, and instead focus on the actual words and place the characters at the centre of the play’s focus.” Though this might evoke initial visions of a static performance, Catliff seemed confident in his actors’ ability to bring the play and its intricate dynamics to life: “You get a sense of the time period and the place, his family and the house, but you also don’t get distracted by the idiosyncrasies of the play itself.”
In keeping with the Greek idea of a tragic hero, Catliff and Douglas have made a stylistic decision to portray other characters as a “kind of Greek Chorus ensemble”, a promisingly enthralling feature which will, again, be unique to their production.
Another boasting feature for the production is its array of talented actors. With the dynamic Gareth Owen as Eddie Carbone, his portrayal of the character’s complexities should prove to be a captivating experience. Seeing me concerned with the idea of Brooklyn and Italian accents, and how the actors intended to portray these, as with his specific take on Miller’s naturalism, Catliff explained how the actors’ accents should not be overpowering. Instead of creating a caricature of Italian brothers, his aim is for their development and characterisation to be explored, rather than the superficial aspects of their performance.
With Catliff and Douglas’ attention to detail, the performance is set to live up to their aspirations. Relatable themes, intriguing characters, powerful actors and a seemingly unique take on the play are all but a few of the reasons A View From the Bridge promises to be a great, if not outstanding, “one of a kind” production.
Tuesday 8th & Wednesday 9th March
Thursday 10th March
The Byre Theatre
Tickets available from http://httpbyretheatre.website/?1