A moment of magnetism to memorise for the mind
After accepting the Best Actor prize at the 2015 Olivier Awards, deserving winner Mark Strong said he was “blown away” at the thought of lifting “the greatest kind of theatre award that we have”.
But after seeing Strong (Our Friends in the North, Sherlock Holmes, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and The Imitation Game) hold centre stage - quite literally- in A View From The Bridge, no one should be in any doubt about his status as one of the UK’s finest actors.
Arthur Miller’s tragi-comedy about the suspicions of immigration, the challenges of parenthood and the nightmare of family breakdown, directed by Ivo Van Hove who won the Olivier Award for Best Director, has put Strong in the rarified company of giants such as Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Craig.
Strong plays American Eddie Carbone who finds himself descending into Hamlet-like outrage when his orphaned niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) takes a fancy to Rodolpho (Luke Norris), the younger brother of Marco (Emun Elliott) who are house guests of the Carbines after emigrating illegally from Italy to the USA.
Despite the best efforts of his wife Beatrice (Nicola Walker of Spooks, Last Tango in Halifax and Babylon fame) to bring her husband to his senses, Eddie’s love of his niece becomes obsessive and even murderous to the point that Strong’s character can no longer see, nor listen to reason.
The less you trust, the less you be sorryMark Strong as Eddie Falcone in Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge
Family lawyer Alfieri (Michael Gould), born in Italy but fully acclimatised to life in New York City’s Brooklyn suburb where the play is based, acts as commentator on the gradual demise of Eddie, while at the same time trying to save him from self-destruction.
Dutch director Van Hove’s decision to set the drama in a minimalist setting of lightly carpeted stage and window sills as spectator points for the character are set against a single door through which Strong and his fellow cast members have little time to draw breath.
What A View From The Bridge does show is how powerless parents are in trying to steer the course of their children’s lives, despite Eddie’s counsel to Catherine that “the less you trust, the less you be sorry”.
The play’s second ingredient is the power of the family name, especially illustrated in African and Asian cultures, which is what ultimately drives Eddie over the edge as a knife is plunged into his stomach during a blade-flashing showdown with Marco on what should be his brother’s wedding day with Catherine.
The seven actors and actresses who support strong, particularly Phoebe Fox, bring their contributions to the play in as professional and convincing a manner as possible.
As a result, their collective parts in winning the production a third Olivier Award for Best Revival cannot be understated.
But even the cast know that this is Strong’s show, with a mix of intensity, dry humour and raw manliness that any overprotected daughter can identify with.
As Eddie Carbone said to his niece Catherine: “I guess I just never figured that you would ever grow up.”
Review by Winston Brown