The actors are wonderful, (Nicola Walker, Mark Strong, Phoebe Fox, Emun Elliott), the staging is superb, (J.Verswersveld), and with a 'love' theme that never fails to stimulate thought, what more could you want?
It was not a hit the first time at all. It got reworked, and still failed to excite, but the sparse, elegant staging here, with actors who just spark off each other like firewood, makes compelling watching. Here is a designer who knows that less is more, and a director (Ivo van Hove) who uses the space perfectly.
Eddie (Mark Strong), a first-generation immigrant Longshore man in New York, has lived the values of his native Italy: looking after his niece and working terribly hard to provide whatever he can so she will have a better life, after his wife’s sister died. The niece is a cute, child-like Lolita with an angel face (Phoebe Fox) and delights him; their bond seems strong. We are in an Italian household, with very traditional ways of behaving, hence the vivid physical expression of their fondness feels a little strong. Or maybe it's my contemporary wariness? His wife (Nicola Walker) seems increasingly aware of their ties being unsuitable for an ageing male and an 18-year-old, but her impish, innocent ways and his strong, safe male presence can almost persuade us that all is well. Although it feels to us like emotional abuse, his Sicilan patriarchal style was still very acceptable in that culture in the '50s; even a book like 'I Wanted to Wear Trousers’ caused a storm in Sicily in the early seventies!
And then Italian visitors arrive, family from Sicily who are looking for a hiding place from immigration. Catherine, the niece, falls in love with one of the guys, a blond youth, who cooks, sings and had dreams of a great life in America. And the disaster is set to begin, unfolding like a Greek tragedy, utterly predictable but horrendous to watch. No chorus in this production, but the harrowed voice of the lawyer who sees only too clearly what is coming.
The final scene stops our breath, its cruelty and brutality utterly dismaying. What did Wilde say- ‘...and everyone kills the one he loves'?
The age-old question remains: what is love?
The Southbank Gourmande saw A View From a Bridge in previews. It is now running through the 7th of November 2014.