Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A View From The Bridge @ Bolton Octagon, 16.01.14

A View From The Bridge, by Arthur Miller, is all about the destructive power of that oldest and ugliest of emotions: jealousy. Centred around Eddie Carbone (Colin Connor), his wife Beatrice (Barbara Drenna) and their niece Catherine (Natasha Davidson), the story takes place along the shores of the East River in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.

There is plenty of mirth in Miller's play, especially in the opening act where the family kid each other in an atmosphere of contentment. But this is not the perfect cookie-cut American family by any means, and once Beatrice's relatives from Italy arrive hidden feelings begin to creep out, like cockroaches from behind seemingly pristine wallpaper. Eddie is jealous of Catherine's interest in the newly arrived Rodolpho (Tristan Brooke), and once that indecent dynamic is established the play careens towards its inevitable and unhappy conclusion.

Some of the cast were familiar from recent Octagon performances and, like in those, here they delivered work of very high standard. Connor as patriarch Eddie managed to take us on his difficult journey without being overblown, while Drennan as his wife showed suitable levels of nervous stress. The accents, be they Italian or American, were pretty much spot on, which is always a relief for the audience and a considerable achievement for the actors.

Building up momentum as it goes, it is easy to see why this particular Miller play is held in such high regard and why the Bolton Octagon has put it on. Much has been made of director David Thacker's connection to Miller, and his assured hand delivered a performance that was visually interesting, emotionally engaging and a credit to his friend's play.

In some ways the story seems dated, with the female characters being expected to bow before patriarchal pressure. But while that might not be the way in most households, there are still many women whose choices are taken away by overbearing male figures, and this play is a reminder that while western society has come along way it is not a rising tide that has raised all boats. A strong start to 2015 for the Octagon.

Words: Andrew Anderson

Images: Ian Tilton

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