Newcastle University Theatre Society take on Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.One of the greatest American plays, A View from the Bridge centres on longshoreman Eddie Carbone’s (Joe Sample) family in 1950s Brooklyn. Eddie struggles both with poverty, and his increasingly romantic love for his niece Catherine (Flora Squires). Lawyer Alfieri (Jasper Maberly) narrates the tragic events that unfold after the arrival of Beatrice Carbone’s (Coco Anthony) Italian cousins, Marco (Jake Hodgkinson) and Rudolpho (Oli Garcia-Warren).
Miller’s play, while set in Brooklyn, could be about any working-class community, now or then. The minimal set, just three chairs, was a shrewd decision by directors Caroline Simonsen and Bailey Pilbeam. With audience seated on three sides and separated from the stage by lengths of rope, it felt as if every effort had been made to draw the spectators into the world of the play. The problems faced by Eddie and Beatrice feel incredibly present and relatable.
The play got off to a strong start, with Alfieri proving a brief but engaging slice of Brooklyn history as Eddie and his colleagues slowly clean off the grime of their trade. Jasper Maberly deserves a lot of praise for his portrayal of Alfieri. As equally comfortable talking directly to the audience, or stepping over the rope that separated them from the stage and taking part in the events of the play. Likewise, Coco Anthony doesn’t put a single foot wrong as Beatrice, Eddie’s careworn and badgering wife. She would not have been out of place in any professional production of the play.
As for the rest of the cast, Flora Squires turns in a solid performance as the naive Catherine. She is particularly strong in the early scenes of the play, wide-eyed and fawning first over Eddie and then Rudolph. Jake Hodgkinson has little to do as the taciturn Marco, but his moments of confrontation with Eddie are played to perfection. Oli Garcia-Warren grows into his role, but his anger during an argument with Catherine is a little jarring, and could perhaps have been built more gradually as that scene progressed.
Joe Sample’s performance as Eddie was, simply put, electric. The play fades a little whenever Sample is not on stage, but this is not due to a failing from the rest of the cast, just that he was so charismatic. When he was on stage it was almost impossible to look anywhere else, as Sample shifted effortlessly from caring uncle to violent bully. Eddie’s final speech, delivered by Sample while staring piercingly at the audience, does justice to Miller’s text. No higher praise is needed.
It is a mark of how excellent the production was when the only flaws that can be found are pedantic in the extreme. Sample doesn’t look much like the over-the-hill, overweight Eddie, but then again it is notoriously hard to find 40 year old actors in a student society. And as soon as he starts talking, this is forgotten completely. The accents sometimes wander from Brooklyn and Italian (occasionally to Canada, occasionally somewhat further afield to an unidentifiable Eastern European country), but this happens only sporadically and didn’t detract from the enjoyment of some wonderful performances.
In summary, NUTS’ presentation of A View from the Bridge was a resounding success, providing an excellent advert for student theatre.