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Review Round-up: Critics Give their Views on Stott

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Lindsay Posner's revival of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge opened at the Duke of York's last week (5 February, previews from 22 January), with Ken Stott leading the cast as the man putting the blue in blue collar, Eddie Carbone.

In Miller's 1955 play, which hasn't been seen in the West End since 1995, Carbone, a head-strong longshoreman, is protectively raising his wife's orphaned niece, Catherine. But when Eddie's feelings for Catherine develop from paternal protectiveness to sexual desire, his struggle to contain his emotions leads him on a path of self destruction transforming him from a respected, honourable man to a virtual stranger shamed and broken by his own actions.

Stott is joined in the cast by Hayley Atwell (Catherine), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Beatrice), Gerard Monaco (Marco) and Harry Lloyd (Rodolpho).

Many critics referenced Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed 1989 National Theatre revival, which starred Michael Gambon, for comparative purposes. And most concluded that Stott's “wonderfully compelling” portrayal of Carbone was at least the match of Gambon's. There were some detractors who criticised the scope and pace of Posner's production, but they failed to rain on Stott's parade. And there was no shortage of superlatives for his fellow cast members, particularly the “excellent”  Mastrantonio and “vivacious” Atwell. All in all, this wasn't a Bridge too far...

  • Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (four stars) - “I’ve sometimes found Miller’s play over portentous, but the tone is spot-on here, and we are treated to an evening of theatre as rich, satisfying and alarming as any in town at the moment … Stott’s Eddie – lurching like a drunken prize fighter in the scene where he kisses his niece (Hayley Atwell) and then her blond Sicilian lover boy Rodolpho (Harry Lloyd) full on the mouth – is a great wail of a performance, a Punch-nosed Pagliacci swollen with pain and confusion. The fine American actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, last seen here in Grand Hotel at the Donmar, is a drained, loyally at-the-end-of-a-tether wife Beatrice.”
  • Benedict Nightingale in The Times (five stars) - “Lindsay Posner’s fine revival goes far towards convincing me that Miller was right to believe that he had written a tragedy, complete with a flawed protagonist, a sense of inevitability and a mini-chorus in the form of Allan Corduner’s Brooklyn lawyer, who describes Eddie walking 'step after step' towards disaster … Eddie’s own case is the most fascinating, because he refuses to know what he indeed knows. And you can see in him the growing unease, the terrible tension, the grief, the gathering anger, the suppressed madness and, finally, an awful implacability as, his face a mask, he phones the authorities. Better than Gambon? If not, very, very good.”
  • Michael Billington in the Guardian (three stars) - “One should live in the present, not the past. But, while one watches Lindsay Posner's perfectly decent production of this Arthur Miller classic, it is difficult to banish the memory of Alan Ayckbourn's sensational 1987 revival. The difference is that Posner treats the play as the tragedy of a doomed individual, whereas Ayckbourn … in addition gave us a portrait of a community … There are many fine moments in Stott's performance … I just wish there more hint of the sub-text, which is that Eddie, who says of Rodolfo 'you could kiss him he is so sweet', is himself secretly drawn to the vivacious visitor.”
  • Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail (four stars) - “Ken Stott has a voice as deep as Loch Ness, a plump tum and a face as lived-in as that old woman's shoe from the nursery rhyme. Glamorous matinee idol, he ain't. But he showed this week that on his day, he is as powerful a stage actor as any of his generation … Lindsay Posner draws a strong ensemble performance from his cast, Miss Atwell giving Catherine a hesitant flirtatiousness ... Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is also excellent as Eddie's despairing wife … Some teenage schoolgirls in the auditorium on Wednesday behaved poorly, giggling at the wrong moments and spoiling the dramatic tension. Mr Stott's top-flight acting, vaulting from indulgent uncle to bewildered, despairing treachery, demands greater respect than that.”
  • Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard (five stars) - “Christopher Oram’s imaginative design captures the play’s claustrophobic, nightmare quality by allowing us to see both the peeling exterior of the family home and its shabby interior. In this cramped environment, Stott puts on a mesmerising display. Like a seething bull at bay, he radiates an all-round aggression. It shows in his accusing stare, the rasp of his voice and in the kiss he plants first on his niece’s lips and then on Rodolpho’s, in mockery of the boy’s maleness … The impassioned distress of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s wife and Atwell’s agonised embarrassment runs counter to Stott’s fury and gives the evening its shocking, emotional dynamic: family life rent asunder.”
  • Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph - “A View from the Bridge … is a classic case of a writer not realising that less can mean more. Mind you Lindsay Posner's surprisingly clunky production, with cumbersome designs by the usually excellent Christopher Oram, doesn't help. There are too many occasions when the production plods rather than grips. Nevertheless Ken Stott is often wonderfully compelling as Carbone … There's strong support from Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as his pinched and miserable wife and from Hayley Atwell who has a lovely bloom of youth and the lovelight in her eye as the niece. Meanwhile poor Allan Corduner does what he can with that tiresome lawyer. It's an often impressive evening – but not quite the dramatic knockout that I'd been hoping for.”

    - by Theo Bosanquet

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