Tag Archives: Young Vic

View From the Bridge at Wyndham’s Theatre: a review/ rant

12 Apr

On Friday I went to see the highly acclaimed performance of Arthur Miller’s ‘View from the Bridge’, directed by the Ivo van Hove and starring Mark Strong, of ‘The Imitation Game’ and ‘Before I go to sleep’ fame.  I had purposely avoided reading the reviews in depth but even so, it was impossible to be oblivious to the hype around this adaptation.  As a huge Arthur Miller fan and someone who has studied the play in the past, I was pretty confident sitting in my seat waiting for the performance to start that I was going to see something pretty special.

Let’s just say, I should know by now not to believe the theatre critics as I was sorely disappointed.

viewfromthebridge

Van Hove’s numerous techniques to add dramatic effect did not stop with the stark, minimalist set, but included overly long pauses punctuated with a beeping noise to heighten tension, and a scene at the end where the stage directions are read out as the scene is being played out.  Rather than add drama, though, these served only to irritate and distract from the intrinsic drama unfolding in the scenes.   Yes, the play is a tragedy but van Hove’s decision to make everything overly dramatic from the beginning resulted in a conflict and denouement that was less so – the time when the play is at its most dramatic.

Before watching this play, I was unfamiliar with Strong and his work.  Whilst technically his acting was fine, I felt he did not seem to embody the character of Eddie Carbone – the “every” man with flaws and vulnerabilities.  Firstly, Strong seemed – well, too strong, especially given that he was supposed to be physically weaker than Marco.   Perhaps this is entirely subjective but I had always pictured Eddie as someone who is distinctly normal looking – he is a longshoreman with a loving wife and he likes to go bowling.  He finds Rodolpho (who, along with Marco, just arrive to America “off the boat” yet both actors assume American accents) or anyone who isn’t as ‘normal’ as him strange because he isn’t used to anyone else.  In the play, I imagined him to appear approachable and friendly, the kind of harmless man who is liked by everyone in his neighbourhood.  I didn’t feel that Strong embodied this persona and this ‘normality’ is exactly what endears Eddie Carbone to the audience.  It is vital in a play that encourages the audience to empathise and question humanity.

I really disliked the portrayal of Katy, played by Phoebe Fox.  In the play, Katy is supposed to be a young woman, nearly eighteen, who has been overprotected and indulged by Eddie Carbone.  Her burgeoning womanhood mixed with her “Daddy issues”, and Eddie’s repressed and confused feelings about his niece are simmering away in the play with increasing intensity until the climax and tragedy unfolds.  The production, however, completely disregarded any idea of subtlety and had Katy practically straddling Eddie and sitting around with her legs spread open in the first scene.   In addition to this, Fox’s erratic portrayal of Katy was, quite frankly, bewildering – her combination of mumbling, shouting and running around with her underwear exposed made her seem like she suffered from some sort of hyperactive disorder.

Even despite everything I’ve said, I did find myself a little moved in the second act but that is credit to Miller’s exceptional writing rather than the production itself.  As my sister’s boyfriend remarked, the end scene with its dramatic music and pouring blood is reminiscent of a scene in the cult 90s movie, Blade, and perhaps that would have been more entertaining.  I should remember to say (despite my frustrations) that Mark Strong as Eddie Carbone and Nicola Walker as Beatrice Carbone delivered solid, worthy performances but ultimately I came away feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Happy Days at the Young Vic

26 Jan

On Friday, I marked the end of my exams with a visit to the Young Vic in Southwark to watch Samuel Beckett’s play, ‘Happy Days’, starring the amazingly talented Juliet Stevenson. I’d seen the elusive posters all over the tube and I’ve always like the Young Vic, what with its reasonable ticket prices and delicious food in its renowned restaurant, The Cut (the sweet and spicy pulled pork burger is a winner, I’m told).

I don’t know much about Samuel Beckett but I knew the basic premise of a woman, Winnie, who is literally stuck in the earth up to her waist in some scorched wasteland. She whiles away the time with her various rituals and her husband, Willie, is fully mobile but detached and uninterested in his wife’s preambles. I’d seen the comments about the play – ‘a hilarious account of extinction’, The Telegraph – so I’d assumed it would be relatively light-hearted, so I was ill prepared for such a dark, melancholic portrayal of human nature. The visuals themselves were great and the sight of Winnie emerging from the ground was disturbing to say the least.
happy days

The majority of the play is Winnie talking out loud, trying to encourage her husband to interact with her but this happens very seldomly. Winnie comes across as a likeable woman, a woman who always tries to look on the bright side of life but whose optimistic sayings and positive phrases hide a depth of darkness and sorrow. Willie (played incredibly convincingly by David Beames), despite his mobility, comes across as a crawling, repulsive, almost subhuman creature in contrast with Winnie’s vivaciousness and need to feel alive. There is an almost Big Brother element to the play; an alarm (which literally made me jump out of my skin each time it sounded) that seemed to control Winnie who tried to order her day around these external constraints.

The play is separated into two acts, with the second act shorter and darker than the first. In the second act, Winnie is now buried in the earth up to her neck and can no longer conduct some of her previous rituals, such as brushing her hair or teeth. She is slowly being enveloped in the earth and Willie seems to have abandoned her. There is a sense of haunting despair in the second act, and I was constantly impressed with Stevenson’s ability to act only with her face. The oppressiveness of the earth and the futility of Winnie’s body lead her to become more introspective and reminisce about former times when Winnie and Willie first married and her loneliness becomes even more pronounced.

I found the play hauntingly moving, although I think some of the monologue was rather repetitious, which actually led to the woman in front of us falling asleep for most of the first act! I understand this only served to enhance Winnie’s aloneness -she is talking out loud, and using language as a form of reassurance and proof of her existence – but it sometimes lacked flow and movement. Overall, a haunting, fascinating exploration into human nature and our need for human relationships but definitely not an easy watch!