A ‘stunning’ production

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review: “A View from the Bridge”, at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, until June 25th.

Box Office: 0161 8339833. Website: www.royalexchange.co.uk

I HAVE taught Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” as a set text more times than I can remember, so I thought there was nothing new I could learn.

I was wrong!

Sarah Frankcom’s production at Manchester’s wonderful Royal Exchange Theatre is stunning. There isn’t a weak link in a brilliant cast. From the first moment, as the longshoremen unload great sacks of coffee on the Hook in Brooklyn, the scene is set and the Irish American characters populate the stage.

Eddie Carbone (Con O’Neill) lives with his wife Beatrice (Anna Francolini) and her niece Catherine (Leila Mimmack). As Eddie frets about Catherine growing up in such a rough neighbourhood, they await the arrival of two of Beatrice’s relations from Italy.

Desperate to escape the poverty of post war Italy, Marco (Nitzan Sharron) and Rodolpho (Ronan Rafferty) are willing to take the risk of entering the USA illegally to earn some money, Marco to support his wife and three sick children back in Sicily, Rodolpho to have a future in America. However, their presence brings disastrous changes.

The plot has the extra advantage of a kind of Greek Chorus commentary from the lawyer Alfieri (Ian Redford), who tries to warn Eddie without success. I was fortunate because my companion had never seen the play before and I was intrigued by her comments in the interval when we discussed the humour brought out in the first act. To the end she was totally involved and gripped by the play, as was I.

All the principle actors give terrific performances, but Con O’Neill is the best Eddie Carbone I have ever seen. He gives a passionate, ultimately emotionally draining performance. This is a production that has to be seen!