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A View From The Bridge (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The last time I saw Arthur Miller's excellent tale from the waterfront -  A View From The Bridge was at the Bolton Octagon five years ago and Mark Babych's production was stunning. With Sarah Frankcom at the helm, the Royal Exchange Theatre's famous round space offers Miller's iconic Eddie Carbone no escape as his erratic behaviour escalates out of control.

Set in 1950s Brooklyn, we watch like voyeurs as Eddie (played with real conviction and sympathy by Con O'Neil) strives to protect his niece - Catherine (Leila Mimmack) from the real world around her. But her future boyfriend - Italian immigrant - Rodolpho (Ronan Raftery) likens this to holding a baby bird; trying to love and protect but ultimately - stifling the creature and halting its endeavours to fly.

Meanwhile Eddie's wife Bea (Anna Francolini) is forced to choose between her niece and her husband, as his stubborn behaviour unleashes hiddes desires which threaten to bring down his family and his standing in the local community. Itallian American and working class; the values which underpin this family are at stake, as the popular local man attempts to crush Catherine's attempts to fly the nest and gain some independence.    

Frankcom's direction is subtle yet incredibly effective, leading to heart-wrenching results. Known for her slow burning scenes, View From The Bridge is no exception, as Miller's brilliant Brooklyn tale begins with liberal lashings of humour, but this is soon replaced by a looming sense of tragedy, as Eddie becomes convinced by his own arguments.

O'Neil is quietly brooding to begin with and when his character flips, it is genuinely shocking to witness. Yet he imbues Carbone with sympathy at every twist and turn. Mimmack's accent may waver but her turn is controlled and way beyond her years and Raftery is a real find as Rodolpho the immigrant who turns all their lives upside down. He has a real gift for comedy, yet plays the dramatic elements well also. Francolini's accent is spot on as is her fantastic performance; as she truly gets under the skin of the complex Bea. Ian Redford is also impressive as narrator Alfieri.

James Cotterill's Set Design is minimalist but highlights how this family is slowly breaking down and Johanna Town's lighting is evocative throughout.

At times, the action is marred by the use of extras who witness Eddie's self destructive behaviour close up. But because they are placed all around the stage, some audience members cannot always see events unfold for themselves, which is a shame. Otherwise, this is one steely, yet emotionally resonant production which still packs as mighty a punch as Kate Water's dazzling fight scenes.


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