The Young Vic Theatre was once Arthur Miller's London spiritual theatrical home across a memorable period between 1985 to 1993 when its then artistic director David Thacker directed seven of his plays, including the British premiere of The Last Yankee. (Thacker would go on, after he left the Young Vic, to direct Miller plays at the Bristol Old Vic, the National and his current home, Bolton's Octagon Theatre). Miller once referred to the "almost spiritual connection" that Thacker established with the actors as he directed his work; and the phrase also came to mind as I watched the Young Vic's latest astonishing new rendering of a Miller classic.
For the innovative Dutch director Ivo van Hove, originating his first production on these shores after previously bringing his Toneelgreop Amsterdam company to London's Barbican with the Roman Tragedies, the Antonioni Project and Scenes from a Marriage, has stripped the play raw and bare and let it sing with a spellbinding intensity of sheer emotion, carried entirely through the actors who seem to be living every moment of it.
Gone are the familiar naturalistic trappings of the play's setting in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, where an Italian immigrant family lives. Here, Eddie Carbone works on the docks and Catherine, the 17-year-old daughter of Eddie's wife's late sister, lives with them. Then two more new, but illegal, immigrant cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, join them -- and the makings of a tragedy unfolds, as Rodolpho and Catherine start to form a relationship and the deeply possessive Eddie can't hide his own increasing distress.
Played across two relentless hours and on a thrust stage that is enclosed by a low wall of perspex glass, the production throbs with fierce feeling. By turns brooding and explosive, it emerges as the most stunning production I've ever seen of this fabled play that seems to reinvent it from the inside out.
That's thanks to a company that feel like they're utterly inhabiting their characters, led by Mark Strong's suppressed rage and longing as Eddie, Nicola Walker's sad yearnings for her troubled husband, and Phoebe Fox as the fragile Catherine who is determined to strike out on her own.
It is absolutely unmissable.
"this staging of A View from the Bridge is one of the most powerful productions of a Miller play I have ever seen..."
Charles Spencer for The Telegraph
"By the end, the audience is shaken by an overwhelming sense of catharsis. Unforgettable."
Paul Taylor for The Independent
"It's a forceful production that offers a radical alternative to the conventional realistic approach to Miller's tale, without necessarily displacing it."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"This is the first time that van Hove has worked with British actors, and the Young Vic’s artistic director David Lan has achieved a real coup in bringing the Belgian here to stage this magnificent, electrifying production."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard