I don’t get to go the theatre very often any more. I sometimes miss it, but given it means I don’t see my baby for a whole day, there is even more pressure for it to be worth it than that engendered by the cost of the tickets. So a play really needs to have a five star review for me to even think about tickets. Fortunately, the multitude of oligarchs in London that make it so difficult to see any ballet at a reasonable price are not very interested in watching the often ugly details of family relationships, which seems to be the most common topic playwrights broach. Arthur Miller is no exception, although I think A View from the Bridge was the first play of his I have seen rather than read, and in any case I never finished Death of a Salesman – it was too American and too 1950s.
Perhaps it is a good thing for a playwright to be so close to his own life and times, but it makes the plays more difficult to stage and to watch outside their context. The story in A View from the Bridge is set in New York, among Italian American families working mainly in the shipyards, unloading cargo. They are of course very poor, work very hard and are passionately loyal to their family and community. I started to feel slightly like it was a Martin Scorsese story, and it did rather feel as if Joe Pesci could turn up and start smashing things at any moment. Perhaps the many, many films made about Italian Americans in the last forty years make the whole premise feel trite in a way it was not at the time. There’s a lot of shouting, a lot of talk about honour and passionate love affairs. The central theme of betrayal, encapsulated by the main character Eddie, who falls in love with his niece, and in his jealousy breaks her trust forever, feels a little predictable, even if it is originally packaged.
Sarah Sands wrote in her Evening Standard editorial that the whole topic of what immigrants contribute to a society was very relevant in these dark days of UKIP voters, but I thought it came across as nothing more than a secondary narrative.
Still, Mark Strong is very good, although possibly the lady who plays his wife (and was in Spooks, can’t remember her name) is the stronger actor.