A View from the Bridge review – Theatre Royal Haymarket, London ★★★☆☆

Photo: Johan Persson

Following a sold-out four-week run in Theatre Royal Bath’s intimate Ustinov Studio, Lindsay Posner’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge arrives in London for its official national opening at the expansive Theatre Royal Haymarket. It comes with a star attachment in Dominic West as Eddie Carbone – returning to the stage for the first time in nearly a decade. It’s almost a decade, too, since the last major London production of the play in Ivo van Hove’s critically acclaimed take on Miller’s classic, starring Mark Strong. There is a sense of Posner deliberately taking an opposing stance to Van Hove’s, considered by many to be a definitive take. You can understand the sentiment – if you can’t offer something new, why bother?

While van Hove offered uber-minimalism, Posner clings to a period staging (by Peter McKintosh) and the chorus-like framing of Italian immigrant lawyer Alrieri (Martin Marquez) who begins by recounting his recollection of the events of one June and December of a fateful year in a neighbour near Brooklyn Bridge 1950s America. Two Italian ‘submarines’ – illegal immigrants – Marco (Pierro Niel-Mee, excellent) and Rodolpho (Callum Scott Howells) arrive at the home of Eddie, his wife Beatrice (Kate Fleetwood) and his seventeen-year-old niece, Catherine (Nia Towle), who he has raised since she was a child.

Photo: Johan Persson

Cousins of Beatrice, they are being put up by the family until they find their feet. Marco plans to stay in America for a few years, sending the money he earns back to his poor and hungry family it Italy where it will by medicine for his sick son. Rodolpho intends to stay forever – and when Catherine falls for the waif-like, blond-haired immigrant, who has earned himself the nickname Paper Doll on the docks for singing while he works, Eddie is incensed.

West’s Eddie is notably human, making his descent even more tragic and pitiful as he demands his respect and his name. It’s a performance that confirms his star billing, and it is matched by the ensemble – all equally human. Towle’s Catherine visibly grows and hardens, while opposite her Scott Howells is best when he throws off the humourous exterior in his impassioned defence of his intentions. The performances, however, are not matched by the production which feels too rooted in the past, with any modern resonances or parallels incidental. Is there something to say here about the drivers for immigration on the night the current UK Prime Minister and his assumed successor spar about immigration in a live television debate? Sadly, it seems not.

Photo: Johan Persson

That the production doesn’t speak entirely to modern times may explain Posner leaning into comedy, seeking to entertain if not to enlighten – but, in doing so, he loses more than he gains. Adding a light, humorous touch to some of the earlier exchanges sets an expectation of comedy to come so that later tense moments of pathos are undercut by ripples of laughter in sections of the audience. Eddie’s attempt to humiliate Rodolpho and Marco’s powerful display of strength, his body vibrating with determination as he lifts a chair high above his head, diminishing Eddie’s masculinity and dominance in the process, get laughs. Some might blame the audience, but Posner creates the conditions.

A View from the Bridge is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 3 August