There was a moment in the second act of Louis Catliff’s production of A View from the Bridge that made the audience gasp and laugh awkwardly in shock and disgust. It was an extremely visceral reaction, and it reminded me just how good Arthur Miller’s work is. A View from the Bridge is a tough play to put on, but it is a great one. Catliff’s Byre production, while occasionally appearing to struggle with the toughest elements of the script, put on an impactful, startling performance.
An exceptional script should be matched with exceptional acting – a standard the production had no trouble matching. The thrust of the play is carried by the relationship between Katherine (Caitlin Morris) and Eddie (Gareth Owen). Morris was convincing and sympathetic in her portrayal of the ingénue, while Owen displayed an intimate knowledge of Eddie’s tricky character arc (though his accent, was unconvincing). Both actors showed great physicality, particularly in their interactions with each other.
Other performers took some time to get going. Italian immigrants Marco (Jonathan Hewitt) and Rudolpho (Oli Savage) were good in the first act. Savage’s quick motions and speech were contrasted by a slower, more stoic performance from Hewitt, emphasizing the script’s distinction of the two. But in Act 2, when the passage of time justifies abandoning the awkward, foreign accents in favor of a more naturally American voice, both improved significantly. I’d level one criticism at Savage. He either needed to commit more fully to his infatuation with Morris’ character, or make it more ambiguous, to capitalize on an interpretation of that relationship. Seb Bridges’ performance as Alfieri, the chorus-like, or memory, character, picked up as he got more passionate: with impressive energy, he drove the play towards the intermission while foreshadowing the ending. But on the lower notes, while Alfieri says he is “transfixed” by Eddie, I found Bridges somewhat flat. Blocking, too, improved towards the end. The boxing scene that concludes Act 1 looked awkward, but a similarly physical confrontation in Act 2 was very convincing, and dramatically effective.
The bricks and mortar of Bridge were well handled, with minor inconsistencies. Costume was appropriate and consistent for all characters. It did seem bizarre that only certain characters changed costume, but that choice was clearly made for distinct reasons. Set was sparse, but created the necessary locations and furnishings. Lights were a minor inconvenience. One recurring spot was low, and several of the specialized lightings threw shadows on faces. I suspect that some of these issues will resolve themselves during the run.
A View From the Bridge is not radical in its interpretation, but one faithful response to Miller’s inspired writing. And though Catliff’s production was very much a student show, St Andrews is home to some very talented students. As a passionately created representation of a fantastic piece of American theatre, A View From the Bridge is a sight very much worth seeing