Monthly Archives: April 2015

A View from the Bridge

View from the BridgeNT Live – A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller at the Young Vic

7th April, 2015

Alfieri: ‘I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger.’
Marco: ‘In my country [Eddie] would be dead now.’

The play’s title is the perspective of most self-styled and indifferent New Yorkers, for whom the Italian immigrant community in the 1950s slum of Red Hook is merely a view from the Brooklyn Bridge. The tragedy of the protagonist  plays out: Eddie Carbone (Mark Strong) – a respected Brooklyn longshoreman with a questionable love for his niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox. Here ‘the gullet of New York is swallowing the tonnage of the world.’ Our guide /Chorus is the philosophical lawyer Alfieri (beautifully played by Michael Gould ) sets a tone of tragic inevitability from the outset. Alfieri introduces Eddie: ‘This one’s name was Eddie Carbone,’ speaking about him in the past tense shows that his fate has already come to an end and gives an indication that Eddie will die at the end of the play, so the audience are left wondering not what will happen to him but how it will happen. The experimental Belgian director, Ivo van Hove describes the play as ‘witnessing a car accident that you see a hundred metres before it happens.’

Many of the huge Italian community are supporting and hiding immigrants from their homeland who are fleeing the destruction and poverty of post-war Italy for a new life in America. Yet, when Eddie’s wife, Beatrice (Nicola Walker), volunteers to shelter her distant cousins, Marco (Emun Elliott) and Rodolfo (Luke Norris) who have just arrived secretly on the ships, Eddie’s control of his household is destroyed. The catalyst is Rudolfo who gains the affections of Catherine. The decision not to have Rodolpho and Marco speak with heavy Italian accents (they sound just as American as the other cast members) seems odd at first given that some of their lines obviously call for it. But it restores to the characters some extra dignity, levelling the playing field between the immigrants and the rest of Brooklyn. Tensions bubble and wry humour derives from Eddie’s fixation on Rodolpho’s sexuality, constantly telling Beatrice and Alfieri that Rodolpho ‘ain’t right,’ and in a (misguided) attempt to prove this, he forcefully kisses Rodolpho in front of Catherine.
From the outset, Eddie’s tactile relationship with his niece is perfectly pitched: once innocuous, now inappropriate. She’s an overgrown daddy’s girl, basically, jumping into his arms and wrapping her legs round his waist. Catherine’s short skirt sexualises our perceptions of a boundary which may have been crossed. Our suspicions are further fuelled when Beatrice further hints something is awry as she remonstrates that Eddie has neglected their sexual relationship. Nicola Walker conveys her repressed anger, jealousy and fear very convincingly. Yet, like many Miller tragic heroes, Eddie is a good-hearted man and proxy father with a fatal flaw.

Continue reading A View from the Bridge

The Ruling Class

'Devilish charm’: James McAvoy finds teatime a drag with Forbes Masson and Paul Leonard in The RulinThe Ruling Class by Peter Barnes at The Trafalgar Studios

April 2nd, 2015

 

 

‘Dr Herder: Then, of course, he never forgot being brutally rejected by his mother and father at the age of eleven. They sent him away, alone, into a primitive community of licensed bullies and pederasts.
Sir Charles: You mean he went to public school.’
This bawdy political farce about class, wealth and arisocratic power left me cold, despite the tour de force of James McAvoy playing the role of the 13th Earl of Gurney. The Earl is a paranoid schizophrenic aristocrat who believes he is god. It’s the kind of manic, hammed-up performance attributed to pantomime, punctuated with laboured punclines. The rest of the performances conform to my expectations of a school production. Even though, we left at the interval, Barnes play had nothing profound to say.
Yes, in 1968, ‘The Ruling Class’ must have been shocking in some ways and startlingly provocative in others. It is vitriolic about the Upper Classes in England, including the Church and the medical profession. To me the play seemed to be celebrating the very class it claims to chastise. Barnes’s play betrays its age. At worst it feels like a clownish period piece.
I left recalling Peter Cook’s observation in the sixties:
‘Britain is in danger of sinking, giggling into the sea’

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer John Heffernan as oppenheimer ben allen as edward tellerOppenheimer’ by Tom Morton-Smith at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

March, 2015

A guest review by Derek Linney

Oppenheimer provided us with the motivation to take a trip to Stratford and our first visit to the Swan Theatre. Apart from the appeal of the play’s subject we were attracted to see John Heffernan whose career we have followed with interest for a number of years. The Swan Theatre was a perfect setting for the play; the thrust stage enabling a closeness to the performance and an engaging experience. Tom Morton-Smith, the playwright, combines the personal story of Oppenheimer and the other physicists, the political context, especially that of the communist affiliations or sympathy of many of those scientists and the challenge of the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb at Los Alamos during WW2.

Although it touches upon the moral dilemmas of creating the first weapon of mass destruction this aspect is relatively briefly covered in comparison to the personal and political pressures of the Manhattan Project. This is justifiable in the context of the development of the bomb as the moral debate was primarily a later, post-war one; at the time the challenge was to develop the bomb before Nazi Germany could develop one. This context is especially critical given that many of the scientists involved were European émigrés who had first-hand knowledge of the horrors of totalitarian Germany. Continue reading Oppenheimer