Arthur Miller’s play A View from the Bridge was a brilliant response to the pressures of US Cold War politics.
Right wing senator Joe McCarthy was leading a witch hunt against “Communists”. But Miller refused to testify against his fellows—unlike his friend Elia Kazan who’d previously produced his plays.
Kazan tried to justify this betrayal in his film On The Waterfront, which presented collaborating with the state against corrupt union bosses as a good thing.
Miller’s play remains a devastating reply.
His hero Eddie Carbone is a Brooklyn docker, who lives with his wife Beatrice and adult niece Catherine.
Red Hook is a close knit immigrant community in Brooklyn, New York. There’s a particular hatred of anyone who betrays “illegals” to what’s known as “The Immigration”.
This latest production at the Octagon makes full use of the theatre’s arena stage to display Red Hook’s community spirit—in particular, its anger at treachery.
Two of Beatrice’s Sicilian cousins are smuggled illegally into the US, and stay with the Carbones. Marco and Rodolpho have come from Italy’s poverty stricken south to work and support their families.
The production explores the sexual tension in the Carbone’s household. Eddie has unspoken desires for Catherine, which begin to affect his relationship with Beatrice.
The production’s power comes through exploring these passions. Things begin to come to a head when Catherine develops an attraction for the single Rodolpho.
This makes Eddie become increasingly emotionally unstable.
Miller’s narrator is Alfieri, a local lawyer, who provides commentary on events from the beginning. He tells us that he was powerless to the stop the “bloody course” of events, after Eddie dobs his rivals into the authorities.
It means that we know the play’s end from the beginning.
Director David Thacker’s latest Miller production is as powerful a take on the play as I have ever seen.
It brings out the humour and warmth in the Carbone household, and also gives Eddie some humanity as he struggles with his inner demons.
Directed by David Thacker
Octagon Theatre, Bolton BL1 1SB
Tickets from £17. Until 14 February