Perhaps the greatest play written in the last century, Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge is, for me, one of the purest, most accessible, deeply moving examinations of a flawed protagonist ever penned. This production, staged in the ever-so-slightly shabby confines of the Duke of York's Theatre, St Martin's Lane, never once fails to do justice to its source material.
A triumph in every respect. The unusual staging, which features a corner-out angled terrace house jutting right to the front of the stage, with two walls that slide skyward to reveal the dark, doomed, domestic life withing, works brilliantly. The warmth of an Italian-American household is initially offset against the cold, grey hues of the Brooklyn sidewalk beyond the walls of silence. As those walls are lifted and the monster within revealed, the odd, jutting angles of the buildings architecture become apparent. The room is too tall, its walls not at right angles. Not right in any sense. Much like the relationships of those within.
For those unfamiliar with perhaps Miller's greatest work, the plot is deceptively simple. Eddie Carbone, a trouble dockworker with a feisty but neglected wife, dotes almost incestuously on his beautiful, seventeen year old orphan niece and ward Catherine. She, initially the ingenue daughter of his paternal affection, is aroused into womanhood by the arrival of the Carbone's cousins, Marco and Rodolpho; illegal immigrants from the old country. As Catherine and Rodolpho's affection grows, Eddie is wracked by jealousy, beginning a spiral of descent that eventually lays his desires bare for all to see, and confront.
It's a play, that, as with Miller's other seminal works, The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, is as much about male identity as anything. Thus its success hinges on the performance of its male lead. Here, Ken Stott is simply breathtaking. His Eddie Carbone sizzles with pent-up sexual longing and internal conflict. At once shamed by his passions and unwilling to abondon them, he delivers a performance that rides the dramatic highs while never straying an inch from credulity. His transformation from semi-love-able Italian father figure to ruined pervert is as tragic, useless and, in Miller's words, 'pure' as the playwright could ever have envisaged. It takes a strong constitution to hold back tears during the play's denouement.
Equally brilliant is Mary Elizabeth Mastranonio as Eddie's long-suffering wife Bea. Fiesty and cruelly unloved, she knows more than anyone in the whole sorry affair, but, like the lawyer-narrator, is powerless to stop events unfolding. The pair are ably supported by the delightful Hayley Atwell as Catherine, whose performance is reigned-in, but draws sufficient sympathy for her plight to counterpoint that of her adoptive father.
Only Harry Lloyd seemed slightly off-key as the love-able Sicilian Rodolpho. His fey, blond haired, suitor perhaps a little too "bappadi-boopy" cod-Italian for my tastes, though he remained sufficiently amiable.
This entire production though, has nothing approaching a true bum note. I've seen Miller performed many times, and in many ways - but never have I encountered perhaps his finest work performed so majestically. The show's run has only until mid May to run. I suggest you catch it as quickly as possible, and avoid missing perhaps the best piece of legitimate theatre in the West End this year.