We are in early April and I might as well pack and go home now. Because I won’t see anything like the Young Vic production of A View From The Bridge for the rest of the year. At this point this feels exhilarating and a little bit depressing, but the production is performed until beginning of June, and I will definitely see it again. With this public service announcement out of the way – I will say it once, book a ticket – we will proceed.
People will describe the production as stylised and stripped back, but the result is the opposite of absence. On a bare stage – part courtyard, part shipyard (at the start of the play), part prison with walls not fully erected – emotions expand to fill the space in a pressing, almost unbearable way. The production exists in a place where a whole layer of skin is missing. I was hyperaware of all sensations: the movement of actors on stage appeared intuitive but the images were iconic. The music was heartbeat, full of blood and dread. None of these things were distracting, they opened up the senses for the real event, Arthur Miller’s play, one of the masterpieces of the twentieth century. The raw quality of first and last scenes bookended the production magnificently, with sex and death and desperation hanging in the air.
Mark Strong, twelve years off the stage (and if we wait another twelve years, it will be a crime), is a devastating presence. “His eyes were like tunnels”, says Alfieri and you never quite expect to see it, but it’s there, plain as day, eyes hollow and deathly black. Strong’s Eddie is an object of fear and envy and pity, and one of the great, bleeding raw, performances of recent years. Nicola Walker infuses Bea with earthiness and wisdom and luminous perseverance, all the more poignant because she struggles against a current it will swallow them all. Michael Gould’s Alfieri, doomed to be clear eyed from the start, is furious with impotence. Phoebe Fox’s Catherine finds strength through the bleak realisation that coming of age is death – actual physical death – as well as a beginning. Luke Norris’ Rodolfo has grace and a deceptively light charisma and Emun Elliott’s Marco brings pride and redemption to the real tragedy of poverty and wasted opportunities.
I am saddened to say this is the first Ivo Van Hove directed production I have seen, and on the evidence of this I am an idiot and I should have got around it sooner. (Certainly there is no excuse for missing Scenes from a Marriage at the Barbican last year). I will not repeat this mistake.
I left the theatre exhilarated, bruised, breathless. All I could think of was going back and seeing it again.
UPDATE 13/4: Go and read Andrew Haydon’s review. He says all the things I wanted to say but much better.