The Belgian director Ivo van Hove has taken a drastically non-naturalistic approach to Arthur Miller's 1955 drama, set in Brooklyn's Italian-American neighbourhood, and the stripped-back intensity of focus is emotionally devastating.
Over an unbroken two hours, the story of Eddie Carbone, the longshoreman whose unhealthy obsession with his seventeen year old niece leads to a catastrophic act of betrayal, is played out barefoot on an empty white thrust stage like a timeless tragic rite.
The action is elegiacally underscored from the outset by sections from Faure's Requiem; the claustrophobic atmosphere of foreboding is almost unbearable.
It's said of Eddie that “his eyes were like tunnels” and Mark Strong's superb performance, all seethingly repressed jealousy and dangerous, brooding denial, makes you believe that. The production strikingly heightens the testosterone-charged climate of masculinity under threat. A test of strength with a chair becomes mock-Wagnerian in musical emphasis.
There's a homoerotic feel to the added after-work shower at the start and to Eddie's taunting boxing-bout with his rival, illegal immigrant Rodolpho (Luke Norris). Nicola Walker and Phoebe Fox are excellent as the wife and niece who suffer terribly from the protagonist's desperate refusal to see what is obvious.
By the end, the audience is shaken by an overwhelming sense of catharsis. Unforgettable.
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