Following is Benedict Nightingale’s February 7, 2009 review of Arthur Miller’s play in The Times of London
A View from the Bridge
Benedict Nightingale at Duke of York’s, WC2
Until last night those of us who haunted London’s theatres in 1989 couldn’t think of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge without Michael Gambon’s crumpled, anguished face forcing its way up from our memory banks. Imagine a big, baffled bull, which had somehow wounded itself in its attempts to gore others, and you had the power and the pathos that Gambon generated in what surely remains his finest yet performance. But I’d better make room on my inner hard disk, because Ken Stott will have to draw deep on his talent if he is to match his own playing of the Italian-American longshoreman Eddie Carbone.
It says much for a sometimes underrated play that it can engender two such performances. But Lindsay Posner’s fine revival goes far towards convincing me that Miller was right to believe that he had written a tragedy, complete with a flawed protagonist, a sense of inevitability and a mini-chorus in the form of Allan Corduner’s Brooklyn lawyer, who describes Eddie walking “step after step” towards disaster.
Like Phaedra, Eddie is the obsessed victim of an illicit love, this time for his 17-year-old niece by marriage, Hayley Atwell’s sweet and artless Catherine. You sense it early on, when Stott reproaches her for “walking wavy” and tries to stop her leaving school to take a well-paying job. You feel it when he turns away, his face puckering with pain, when he says he never reckoned that she would grow up. You know it when she falls for Harry Lloyd’s Rodolpho, one of the Sicilian brothers the family is secretly harbouring — and he convinces himself that this outgoing, unthreatening boy is a “punk”, meaning gay, and wants to marry her to get American citizenship.
The fact that the play involves illegal immigrants gives it some frisson now. But Miller wrote it when names were being named to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the HUAC had started to harass him. As he later said, he meant to look at the “ancient immemorial ache” of informing on others. And “ache” is the right word for what is propelling Stott’s Eddie towards what is, in those drab Brooklyn tenements, the unforgivable act of betraying men from the old country . . .