“Just remember, kid, you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away.” This Arthur Miller classic began life as a one-act play (first staged on Broadway in September 1955), before being developed into a more substantial two-act play – it premièred at the New Watergate theatre club (now the Harold Pinter Theatre) in London’s West End, with direction from Peter Brook, on 11 October 1956. Since then there have been numerous revivals, including Ivo van Hove’s acclaimed Young Vic production (starring Mark Strong), which transferred to the West End and picked up three Olivier Awards, before heading across to New York.
The play now finds itself as part of the 2019 Arthur Miller resurgence, with a new co-production from York Theatre Royal and Royal & Derngate; it will first be staged in York, before moving down for a run in Northampton. A community cast will be involved in both locations.
“Building on the success of previous Arthur Miller classics including our world premiere of The Hook in 2015, we’re thrilled to be collaborating with York Theatre Royal for the first time to produce Arthur Miller’s other Brooklyn-set masterpiece as part of our Made in Northampton 2019 season”, says James Dacre, (Artistic Director, Royal & Derngate Northampton). “And we’re pleased that once again we will be able to give members of our local community the opportunity to work alongside a remarkable professional cast as a Community Ensemble.”
Tom Bird (Executive Director, York Theatre Royal) agrees, “A View From The Bridge is one of the finest plays ever written and despite being over 60 years old is a fitting story for our times. We are delighted to be making it in York and that it will then travel to our friends at Royal & Derngate in Northampton.”
“A fitting story for our times”
The play, narrated by Alfieri, centres on an Italian-American community near New York’s Brooklyn Bridge – and specifically the trials & tribulations of Eddie Carbone. He’s married to Beatrice, but harbours increasingly strong feelings for her orphaned niece Catherine, who lives with the couple and is not yet 18. Beatrice’s cousins Marco & Rodolpho arrive in America as illegal immigrants and are also taken in by the family, but trouble starts to brew when the latter takes a romantic interest in Catherine.
The creative team is headed by York Theatre Royal’s Associate Director Juliet Forster, and comprises Rhys Jarman (designer), Aideen Malone (lighting), Sophie Cotton (composition/sound design), Yvonne Morley (voice & dialect coach), Bethan Clark (fight director) and Hayley Del Harrison (movement director).
“Arthur Miller says you can’t really understand Eddie Carbone outside of his community, so inevitably I wanted to create a large living, breathing, feeling community on stage around him, drawing on the remarkable skills of our local community actors”, says director Juliet Forster. “I am really looking forward to exploring the questions raised in the play around trust in a community, betrayal, social taboos and attitudes to the law with two different casts – one in York and one in Northampton – and how this might impact on the production. This gripping drama is compulsive viewing – it simmers with tension and explodes with passion. It feels more relevant today than it has ever been, in its examination of the power of desire, models of masculinity, and in attitudes to immigration, which once again have become a hugely contentious political issue in current times.”
At the moment there seems to be an Arthur Miller for every conceivable situation, and a production to match. The relevance of this particular play is quite astounding; widespread distrust of immigration (in the UK and many other countries), toxic masculinity and betrayal all loom large in society – this all chimes in perfectly with what’s happening onstage. “The play brilliantly introduces these immigrant characters in a way that allows us to sympathise with them and understand they are not a threat. It should be a basic human right that we can move to where there is work so we can feed our family, and this comes through powerfully. It’s a really strong theme in the play even though it’s the back story to the central story of what happens to Eddie Carbone.”
As well as the range of themes that leap off the page, Forster considers A View From The Bridge to be “one of the best plays ever written, an extraordinary text, and a brilliant & unforgettable experience as an audience member seeing the play”.
For this production, Forster was especially keen to explore the aspect of migration. “I was interested in expanding the relevance of the story beyond the very specific Italian-American setting by recruiting a very mixed cast in terms of ethnicity and nationality”, she explains. “People with roots in lots of different parts of the world because this is a play that spreads out into being quite a global issue instead of being focused on just one community.” A diverse company has been put together for this production (casting director was Polly Jerrold). “Some represent different areas of the world and relate to the immigrants’ story through their parents.”
It’s not a case of ‘doing a Young Vic Death of a Salesman‘ and moving the play into a different community to tell the story – Forster was actually inspired by Miller himself going to see a drama school production of an extract of the play which featured “a Korean Eddie, a Jewish Beatrice, a black Marco and a Chinese Rodolpho”. He was struck by their performances and Forster was desperate to see something like that for herself. “The power of the drama, of Miller’s writing and the dynamics of the relationships in the play, seemed to me to be bigger than the confines of the setting, and relevant to all of us.”
Forster has a bit of history with Arthur Miller’s work, having previously directed The Crucible at York Theatre Royal and “a sort of derivative of A View From The Bridge many years ago that ran alongside a production of that play being staged by Harrogate Theatre” – hers was a two-hander that accompanied the Miller play in schools. She has also worked with designer Rhys Jarman before, on a version of E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops. “I went straight to him because I just felt he was a really good fit for A View From The Bridge. I just felt he’s got an imagination that can lift things out of being too literal or too realistic, but retain something that is consistently readable as the world in which the play is set. Our set too is quite different from versions I’ve seen before. That’s exciting and is going to create a very interesting world on stage.”
Nicholas Karimi and Robert Pickavance lead the cast as Eddie and Alfieri, respectively. The rest of the company is: Lili Miller (Catherine), Laura Pyper (Beatrice), Pedro Leandro (Rodolpho), Mete Dursun (Louis), Reuben Johnson (Marco), Daniel Poyser (Mike) and Andrew Squires (Immigration Officer/Tony).