Chichester's A View from the Bridge - grimly compelling, brilliantly delivered
Director Holly Race Roughan offers theatre at its darkest and most compelling in her grimly brilliant A View from the Bridge, oddly Chichester’s first-ever Arthur Miller. She allows events to fester and smoulder, pacing it all quite superbly until it all finally, finally erupts in the most horrifying way imaginable. You know it’s going to end badly. There is no other way it could possibly end. And yet when it comes, no matter how much you steel yourself, the impact is huge.
This is precisely the kind of production where you wander away wondering just how on earth the actors can put themselves through it all night after night, this journey into the most dangerous recesses of our souls as lust and jealously simmer and eventually explode.
We are in the 1950s on the Brooklyn waterfront. Orphaned Catherine is being brought up by her aunt Beatrice and her uncle Eddie, but it is only when she falls for newly (and illegally) arrived cousin Rodolfo that the true nature of Eddie’s feelings for her starts to become clear. He’s objected to every possible suitor, he doesn’t want her to leave the house – but when Rodolfo arrives, he sparks in Catherine something that starts to prise her away from Eddie’s ghastly controlling behaviour.
Jonathan Slinger (Crave at Chichester, 2020) is mesmerising as Eddie, convincing himself he is acting out of the best of intentions even as his monstrous passion overwhelms him.
He exudes menace. He ignores all the warnings put before him. Sinister and increasingly unhinged, he’s spoiling for a fight.
Rachelle Diedericks (Our Generation at Chichester, 2022) is just as compelling as Catherine, torn between the genuine affection she feels for her uncle and the new love she feels for Rodolfo – torn, that is, until the penny starts to drop. Diedericks is outstanding as she gives us the passage from fresh-faced innocence to dawning horror and spirited resistance.
Impressive too from Luke Newberry as Rodolpho, a young man ready to seize the new opportunities and the love which seem to come his way in his new adopted home. Again, the strength of the performance is in the transition – again a complete shattering of innocence. Excellent too from Nancy Crane as Alfieri, lawyer, narrator and also chorus in this riveting tragedy.
But just possibly the night’s best performance comes from Kirsty Bushell as Beatrice, Eddie’s wife urging him to let go, so alive to all the dangers but ultimately so powerless to stop the very worst unfurling. You can’t take your eyes off Bushell as she fights a desperate losing battle.
The barest staging adds to it all, focusing you entirely on the characters as they are dragged towards disaster. It has to be said, though, that there are times when the words just aren’t terribly easy to hear, particularly at the start – which is rare on the main-house stage.
And also, the ballet sequences…. Well, they are somewhere between frankly bizarre and far too clever by half – and are probably both. In the end, they are probably the one misjudgement in this night of passion and ultimately horror.