A View from the Bridge (Wyndham Theatre, 14th March 2015)
Ivo van Hove's reinvention of A View from the Bridge opened to rave reviews at the Young Vic and the Wyndham, with Mark Strong deserving of every accolade thrown at him. Although many of the intense, emotionally transcendant aspects of the play have been exposed, it may however have lost a little of its fire in its transfer to the West End.
Described by Lyn Gardner (The Guardian, 17th February 2015) as a "production that reinvents Miller without ever getting in the way of the view", the production's stark minimalist set by Jan Versweyveld illuminated this, eluding to a 'boxing ring' format, tension heightened by the actors all being barefoot, as if poised with primal instincts from the outset. Rather ironically, the opening monologue began in the Stalls - where no-one other but the most expensive seats could admire the view. Despite this minor flaw, the production was held beautifully together by performances by Mark Strong (Eddie Carbone) and Nicola Walker (his long-suffering wife starved of any affection). Desperate attempts to maintain their marriage held together by mere threads of devotion were painfully evident. The grim conclusion to the play was also breathtaking - hauntingly peaceful yet so raw and brutal.
However, as mentioned earlier, the fire I can imagine that was so prominent at the Young Vic production could not be quite maintained in the Wyndham - even with excellent seats in the front of the Dress Circle. As the play required such intense yet subtle emotional turmoil, in scenes such as the awkward family conversation which led into the confrontation with Rudolpho, it required the ability to examine every minute detail of their body language and facial expression - impossible in a larger space. However I realise this, of course, is unavoidable.
In terms of directorial choices, there were only a few decisions I questioned. At first a slow drum beat perfectly captured the tension, enticing the audience inside Eddie's head. However, as the play climaxed, I wished this drum would have continued to grow in intensity. It felt so integral to the emotional language of the piece, it was anticlimatically lost when it could have been so effective. I also found myself questioning the portrayal of the niece, Catherine. The conflictions between boundaries of child/woman were obvious, with her oblivious to flashing her knickers and wrapping her legs around her uncle, yet also wanting to wear high heels and growing desires for Rudulpho.
Her garishly childish outfit seemed an unusual choice alongside this - the mis-matched flowery top and spotted print skirt seemed akin to something a toddler would wear, and was often combined with an extremely whiny tone of voice. The intentions of infantilising her seemed too obvious compared the refinement of the other characters. Although the production itself was stylised in its aesthetic values, the characterisation was still very much naturalistic. However, Catherine's excessive childishness could easily have been a choice by Van Hove to emphasize her pivotal role.
However overall, the production breathed incredible life into the profound emotional relationships from in The View from the Bridge, and revealed an interesting turn in Ivo Van Hove's artistic direction. It is deserving of its recently sold-out run, and I look forward to seeing Van Hove's debut of Simon Stephen's new play Song from Far Away in the near future.