As we take our seats some men are killing time pitching coins on the sidewalk outside Eddie and Bea’s apartment. The houselights are barely down when a ships hooter grounds us firmly near the Brooklyn Docks of Red Hook and a flurry of people pass by as if at the end of a shift.
Longshoreman Eddie Carbonne comes home to find his niece, Catherine, setting the table whilst his wife Beatrice is in the kitchen beyond.
On Paul O’Mahoney’s set this scene of domesticity is separated from the world outside by a break in the level of the stage, and although there are few walls the interior space has a claustrophobic feel that intensifies the heat of the tensions that build in this soon-to-be overcrowded living space.
It’s clear from the outset that Eddie is overly protective of Catherine, but when Bea’s Sicilian cousins Marco and Rodolpho arrive seeking a roof, having entered the country illegally, the dynamic is shifted uncomfortably. Catherine falls for Rodolpho and we are soon feeling that Eddie’s concern for her is rather more than fatherly. Rodolpho is tall, slim, blond and good looking, with a fine tenor voice and some other talents that Eddie finds less than manly, and he uses this to justify his aversion to their growing affection. Rodolpho’s big brother, however, is not one to be messed with and the tensions between him and Eddie grow to ultimately tragic consequences.
Julia Ford captures Beatrice’s weariness and family loyalty and Shannon Tarbet is splendidly coquettish as the shy teenage Catherine shows her feelings for the suave Rodolpho, played with a stylish swagger (and a good singing voice) by Andy Apollo. Daniel Coonan as Marco has all the solidity both of character and form to persuade us that he could do some damage if he wanted to and he also conveys a great sense of family loyalty.
Ultimately, however, it is Lloyd Hutchinson’s portrayal of Eddie Carbonne that steals the stage. He manages to balance the many facets of this complex and confused character perfectly. As Eddie wrestles with his passions, his loyalties and his conscience we are torn between empathy and horror.
Hutchinson’s Brooklyn-ese is as solid as his performance, and the other accents are well done, even if they do have an occasional wobble, and now and then I wondered if a village in Sicily had moved a bit closer to Russia than it used to be.
Through all this, we are guided by the sage words of local lawyer Alfieri, played by Bruce Alexander. As well as his segments within the main action, in which he tries vainly to guide Eddie away from his path to that certain door, he acts in the manner of a narrator. In the original one act version of the play his part was written in verse and acted as a Greek Chorus. When the play was extended the verse was re-written in straight prose, making the character appear more like the voice we often find in American film noir. He both opens and closes the dialogue of the play as well as providing occasional pauses for reflection.
Quercus Award-winning LEP Associate Director Charlotte Gwinner uses her cast skilfully to hold the tension tightly-lidded throughout, even leaving us holding our breath as the house lights come up for the interval. She also makes good use of stage movement and, occasionally an absence of it, and there are no parts of the action that will not be transparently clear to the entire house - even down to the careful substitution of a stool for one chair at the dining table so that nothing is hidden from our view.
In addition to the central cast listed above there is an eight strong ensemble of supporting actors who provide the ever watchful neighbours and dock workers. They offer swift movement in some of the scene changes and also some telling tableaux at key points of public scrutiny in the tale.
John Leonard’s soundtrack comprises mainly background and atmosphere and along with slick and well focused lighting by Mark Doubleday helps to hold us under the spell.
A View from the Bridge runs at the Liverpool Playhouse until 19th April
|Andy Apollo, Shannon Tarbet, Julia Ford, Lloyd Hutchinson and Daniel Coonan.|
Picture © Stephen Vaughan