Review: A View from the Bridge

Pippa Smith 9 November 2016

Framed by the self-conscious recollections of a Brooklyn laywer, Alifieri, A View From the Bridge follows the twists and turn of Eddie Carbone's life with his wife and niece as it is intruded upon by two Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, whose arrival spins the world of the stage upside down. This play weaves a plethora of genres and concepts together into the single household of the Carbones, portrayed in this porduction at the Pembroke cellars.

The acting was phenomenal throughout. Each actor was well-suited to their role and played it with absolute conviction: a brilliant portrayal of a desperate yet jealous housewife, a husband struggling to let go of someone he longs for yet cannot have, a naïve girl on the brink of adulthood, a (too?) honest refugee and a shadier immigrant. There was close attention to detail in even the tiniest of gestures, movements, tones and innuendoes so that they conveyed the message of the play coherently. The cast's use of New York accents  was impressive, performed with accuracy and consistency. The voice of the New York suburbs came to life on the stage as we watched the unfolding of its American family from the top of Brooklyn bridge.

The set was very creatively organised and not what I expected. The play was performed in the round which enabled a different audience perspective from every angle, and cleverly played on the different interpretations of the situations that arose during the play. With physical set emphasising the multiplicity of understandings, the characters worked well to encourage this ambiguity, creating tensions and uncertainties throughout with detailed portrayal of emotions and subtle gestures in their acting.

However, this choice of staging was on occasion limiting, making the central action hard to see and blocking facial expressions at key moments when backs were (out of necessity) turned to certain unfortunate audience members. The lighting was also questionable at times, with clashing use of torch-light as well as full stage lighting disturbing the atmosphere: it wasn’t clear if the main lights had been off accidently or whether the torch was just rendered superfluous. But the use of the torch did fit well with the overarching metaphor of illusion and omniscient knowledge as Alifieri's voice echoed in the spotlight, leaving us – literally – in the dark, in anticipation. The lighting during fight scenes was also well managed and allowed a suspension of disbelief as well as tension during the build-up and physical freeze-frames of the violent portrayal, leaving me shocked by the final outcome.

Despite the slight staging limitations and the uncertainties with lighting, this was a brilliant recreation of Miller’s A View From the Bridge that gave the audience, through the focalised perspective of Alifieri, the sense that they really were watching, from the bridge, as tensions unfolded and left you guessing right until the very end.