Photo by Pia Johnson.
The words ‘classic’ and ‘masterpiece’ get thrown around a lot in relation to the work of Arthur Miller. The author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible enjoyed great success during the middle of the 20th century and his plays continue to be produced on stages and studied in schools all over the world.
In the case of A View From the Bridge those aforementioned adjectives are more than appropriate. Miller’s mastery of human language and the play’s exploration of masculinity, obsession and betrayal still resonate over sixty years later. This electrifying production presented by Melbourne Theatre Company and directed by Iain Sinclair affirms that A View From the Bridge deserves to be called a classic masterpiece.
It’s the mid-1950s and longshoreman Eddie Carbone (Steve Bastoni) lives in a Brooklyn apartment with his wife Beatrice (Daniela Farinacci) and her orphaned niece Catherine (Zoe Terakes). When they decide to take in two of Beatrice’s relatives from Italy as illegal immigrants the family dynamic is irrevocably shattered and everything Eddie has ever known begins to slip away. Going into further plot details would spoil the story for audiences unfamiliar with the play and young theatregoers especially should rush to see this exemplary production with as little prior knowledge as possible. The conclusion is shocking and devastating; a true tragedy.
In 2014 provocative Belgian director Ivo van Hove staged a pared back View From the Bridge at London’s Young Vic to great acclaim. The staging featured a stark white set design with an enclosed boxing ring style railing and virtually no props. This MTC production directed by Iain Sinclair employs a similar unembellished stage aesthetic, however the predominant palette here is blackness. Set designer Christina Smith has created a gloomy void on the stage of the Sumner; a series of receding black panels on either side of the stage create a tunnel perspective (at one point in the play Eddie’s eyes are referred to as ‘tunnels’). A simple wooden chair is the only prop on stage and features heavily in the staging. A small staircase is rolled out occasionally and at one particularly thrilling moment a door is revealed at the back of the stage. That’s it set wise. The clever sparseness of this design forces the audience to focus on Miller’s brilliant writing and the emotions of the piece. It also helps to highlight the extraordinary performances of the cast.Photo by Pia Johnson.
Bastoni leads the cast as Eddie with a powerful masculinity and a strong understanding of the journey of his character. He took a while to click into gear on opening night, but by the end of the performance the sense of utter humiliation was impressive. Farinacci wrings out every ounce of resentment and frustration within Beatrice and Damian Walshe-Howling, a prominent screen actor, proves his theatrical chops with his measured performance as Marco.
All the actors assembled for this production are at the top of their game, but the most surprising performance in the show belongs to Zoe Terakes as Catherine. She has previously played this role in director Sinclair’s presentation of the play at the Old Fitz in Sydney back in 2017 and her intimate knowledge of the role shows. From the second Terakes enters the stage her boundless youthful energy, accomplished grasp of dialect and fearless physicality is incredible. Her Catherine is sweet, gutsy and conflicted and you cannot take your eyes off her whenever she is on stage. This is a truly courageous performance that demands attention and singles Terakes out as a talent to watch for in the future; it’s a star making performance.
A View From the Bridge features some of the finest stage acting I have seen in recent times and it is the best play MTC has presented in quite a while. This is remarkably powerful theatre that will be remembered for a long time to come. Make no mistake, this is a masterful production that should become a classic in its own right.
A View From the Bridge
By Arthur Miller
Melbourne Theatre Company
Directed by Iain Sinclair
Featuring Steve Bastoni, Marco Chiappi, Andrew Coshan, Daniela Farinacci, Simon Maiden, Zoe Terakes and Damian Walshe-Howling
9 March – 18 April 2019
The Sumner, Southbank Theatre