THEATRE : Chronicle of a death foretold

A View from the Bridge Bristol Old Vic

David Thacker's revival of A View from the Bridge exerts an unforgettably powerful grip from its opening moments. To a hauntingly mournful harmonica theme, a shaft of light pierces the gloom and picks out Alfieri (Alan MacNaughtan), the play's lawyer-narrator, high up the stairway. Shelagh Keegan's design imparts to these Brooklyn tenements some of the lonely, receding mystery of a painting by De Chirico. In the bluish murk of the middle distance, a bunch of longshoremen are pitching coins. A mood of pained hindsight is swiftly established.

Arthur Miller's play famously focuses on a man who is driven by sexual jealousy to an act of betrayal (informing on his wife's illegal immigrant Sicilian relatives to the authorities), and it's possible to feel that the lawyer-narrator is an embarrassing choric intrusion, prodding you into perceptions you'd rather reach alone. But by having this figure on stage at his desk all the way through, instead of tripping on and off, Thacker's production helps create a strong sense of the appalled, powerless foreknowledge the lawyer recalls having felt. "If I seem to tell this like a dream," Alfieri says late on, "it was that way", and the production makes his claim good.

Not that the scenes of family strain and sexual disturbance aren't communicated in all their rocky immediacy; Emer McCourt, for example, most touchingly conveys the newly acquired nubility and painfully divided loyalties of Catherine, Eddie's niece. But Thacker has introduced touches which heighten one's premonitions of doom. For example, there's a scene in which Catherine finds herself alone in the house for the first time with Joseph Fiennes's Rodolpho, whose guileless feminine charms are so wilfully misinterpreted by the jealous Eddie. By this stage of the game, the outcome of any unchaperoned meeting is bound to be tragic from the moment Eddie discovers it. This is brought home here by having him literally overshadow the couple's private scene, visibly slumped on a staircase outside, tipsy with Christmas whisky and choc-full of dangerous misery.

In the role of Eddie, Bernard Hill is magnificent, partnered by an equally impressive Charlotte Cornwell as his wife. Hill has, for a start, the right thickening, stocky build for a longshoreman just past his first strength. He also signals beautifully the confused sensitivity that's buried under the tough surface.

In the middle of the play, the triumphant, raised-eyebrows obduracy with which he pounces on the slightest hint that Rodolpho could be gay is comic in its impact. This slides, though, into the horrible blindness of tragedy as Eddie, who has violated the tribal codes of the Sicilian-American community by his betrayal, none the less persists in presenting himself as the offended party. When Eddie's wife hits him with the truth that it is sexual jealousy not principled protectiveness that has prompted the betrayal, Hill's hands shoot in dazed, horrified denial to his temples. But then, brilliantly, he converts this gesture into a macho, hair-sleeking exercise, a moment of vertiginous self-doubt, wilfully warped into cocky self-assertion.

Like Michael Gambon in Alan Ayckbourn's 1987 production, Hill confirms A View from the Bridge as a play that manages to elicit tragic awe, even though (as in Coriolanus), the hero's self-sacrificing integrity runs on a quite misguided track.

n For listings details, see page 26

Paul Taylor

Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash