View from the bridge with Mark Strong

What’s on Stage – interview with Mark Strong about Eddie Carbone and here a further Q&A with MS 🙂

 I’ve seen Vftb a few weeks ago but it is the kind of play that keeps lingering around in your brain for a while. Here’s the way the Young Vic page summarised it very effectively:

“Arthur Miller confronts the American dream in this dark and passionate tale. In Brooklyn, longshoreman Eddie Carbone welcomes his Sicilian cousins to the land of freedom. But when one of them falls for his beautiful niece, they discover that freedom comes at a price. Eddie’s jealous mistrust exposes a deep, unspeakable secret – one that drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal. “

I’d say this probably pre-empts the tension in the play a bit too much, the production is actually much better at keeping you guessing and keeping the suspicion unspoken. This play was written after the Crucible and adopts quite a different style. Instead of a continuous flow of action we get moments of action linked together by explanations and opinions from the local lawyers who acts almost as a narrator at times. This detaches you from the actions a bit while at the same time providing different options and inputs, we don’t see any incriminating actions per se, but there is enough in terms of dialogues, suspicions expressed openly by all other characters to tell the story about Eddie Carbone’s facts. The story of guilt builds up less through what we actually see then through what we hear. Which in a way allows us to maintain sympathy for Carbone for quite a long time during the play. Or maybe his very convincing protective fatherly attitude keeps you guessing beyond the point where logic tells you otherwise.

Luke Norris (Rodolpho), Emun Elliott (Marco), Phoebe Fox (Catherine) and Mark Strong (Eddie) , Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Otherwise the play is full of Miller’s obsessions about attracting towards younger women, conflicts in marriage coming from it, unfulfilled sexual tensions. From that point of view it didn’t feel all that original. Also, although I’m not against changes in style – I felt the external narration by the lawyer was effective – I would have much preferred to get more character interaction instead.

But then again at the point where the young niece decides to leave the house with her lover and marry him in spite of Carbone’s wishes the tensions and relationships have been stretched so taught that there is nothing left to be said. Or even the smallest word would cause an explosion, which unavoidably happens.

The production has won high praise for its stark efficiency and I fully agree. All we get is a sort of courtyard in front of a house entrance with a delimiting ledge used by all actors to sit on it when they are not in action. Nothing else is needed and it was once again a reminder that theatre is principally about character development and acting and not props.

The play starts and ends with a sort of ‘liquid’ cycle – the mundane washing after a day of hard work at the starts becomes something completely different at the chilling conclusion.

Mark Strong (Eddie), Nicola Walker (Beatrice), Phoebe Fox (Catherine) and Luke Norris (Rodolpho). Photo by Jan Versweyveld

I think where the production shows its brilliancy is in filling the silences Miller has left in the play. Normally we would have a sequence of scenes but here they are tied together with a thread of ever increasing tension. The moments when characters just look at each other, wordless are the strongest; what is left unsaid hangs heavy in the air and towards the end dry beats of sound only increase the sense of impending doom.

It takes very good acting to pull this off (and pull it off to the rooftop of the theatre where I was perched in this case). It is pretty good overall but exceptional in only one case, and that is Eddie Carbone himself, Mark Strong. I was taken by surprise by the fact that it was all in American accents, I know silly of me as this makes sense but it is always a bit of a sensitive issue when the actors are from around here. I thought it really was natural and fully believable as everyday speech in one case, and that was Strong. The rest were ok but I felt you could hear them work at it and it didn’t feel natural at all times. With Strong you were never distracted by it, you never even thought about it.

Mark Strong (Eddie) and Phoebe Fox (Catherine) in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

He’s a slight, wiry man with very charismatic presence. You could see easily how he would be a leader or a significant figure in the community. And he plays the father figure in such a warm and convincing way it’s hard to see reality through it, which is exactly as it is supposed to be. He’s not a character to be vilified, though you see in the end how he refuses to search within himself for the truth and thinks it is only out there.

It’s not a story of heroes, there’s certainly no catharsis; it’s a story of lives gone wrong, of a character with potential greatness making the wrong choices again and again. But played like Strong does what you are left with is sadness and pity for the characters, not hate. And I guess therein lies his achievement.

Phoebe Fox (Catherine), Mark Strong (Eddie) and Nicola Walker (Beatrice) in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

It’s a brilliant production where Ivo von Hove and Versweyveld find exactly the right means to tell the story, no more no less. It is finely tuned and very well judged. A perfect example of ‘less is more’. (their Antigone I saw during the weekend was less successful in that respect).

The play will not be one of my favourites, too many of those obsessive themes bouncing around with too little of maybe more relevant themes, that’s not to say individual destinies are not interesting. It just isn’t a play of a lifetime like the Crucible is for example, it just isn’t as rich. In order to be really interesting it needs the main character to be memorable. And it is what Mark Strong has achieved with his Carbone. I am glad I saw this version of it as I doubt in a traditional setting and with a lesser performer I’d be very interested in revisiting it.

Everyone else was good , but there just isn’t enough time to see much of everyone else. Unlike it seems the critics I wasn’t taken with the acting of Phoebe Fox (Catherine, the niece) – way too petulant for my taste for way too long (got on my nerves), I did like Nicola Walker (Beatrice- the wife) much better and I really felt for her trying to hold on to a husband who is drifting ever farther away.

On an aside, I did think all the while Marco was really familiar, but I didn’t have my binoculars and couldn’t really see the faces in detail from up where I was. After the play I looked at production photos and I instantly recognised him, Emun Elliot! Remember the BBC Series The Paradise?  That’s the one! I’ve been lucky enough to be on set and have a funny picture amongst period corsets with him 😉 Such a sweetheart! No wonder I didn’t recognise him immediately during the play though as he looked significantly bigger and stronger than the rest, which of course fits Marco and i remember him as this smiley, gentle man, not much taller than me with an adorable Scottish accent. (Which tells me the rest of the cast are not very tall either if he stands out among them 😉 )

Anyway, wish I’d had time to check out the cast list before I went to the theatre as I would have loved to say hello, in spite of the awfully rainy day. Good to see him again on stage in any case 🙂

Back to the play, in case you want to ‘check out the competition’ 😉 or just watch an interesting play you can do so on the 26th of March when it will be broadcast international live in cinemas through NT live. I’d really recommend it!

A View from the Bridge

Direction Ivo van Hove 
Design and Light  Jan Versweyveld
Costumes An D’Huys
Sound Tom Gibbons
Dramaturgy Bart Van den Eynde 
UK Casting Julia Horan CDG 
US Casting Jim Carnahan 
Associate Director Jeff James 
Associate Designer James Turner
Associate Lighting Designer  Nicki Brown 
Associate Sound Designer Alex Twiselton 

With
Emun Elliott
Phoebe Fox
Michael Gould
Richard Hansell
Pádraig Lynch
Luke Norris
Mark Strong
Nicola Walker

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20 thoughts on “View from the bridge with Mark Strong

  1. Danke für die sehr ausführliche Review, hört sich sehr interessant und spannend an. Ist ja auch bei uns bald zu sehen, darauf freue ich mich schon sehr! Hoffe aber trotzdem, dass der OdB den Preis gewinnt 🙂

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    • ich bin auf eure Eindrucke sehr gespannt! Ich weiss ich bin nicht ganz objektiv, aber andererseits hat es mich nie davon abgehalten Theater generell zu geniessen und auch andere Schauspieler. Keiner kann alles spielen und in Wirklichkeit gibt es auf der Londonder Buhen viele ‘leading men’.. was gut furs Publikum ist aber es sehr sehr schwierig macht bei solchen awards.
      Objektiv gesehen ist Proctor eine grossere Rolle, die einen Schauspieler noch mehr herausfordert, ob das allerdings bezgl Preise ne Rolle spielt? Ich wurde sagen tweilweise ja, es ist sicher DER Grund wieso R nominiert wurde, weil er der Rolle gewachsen war und es auf der Buhne auch so rubergekommen ist.
      Daruber hinaus ist es sehr schwierig zu sagen, man kann fast unmoglich vergleichen…
      ich wunsche es ihm, aber andererseits muss es mehr geben als nur 1x alle 10 Jahre eine Rolle spielen 😉 Gilt in diesem Fall fur Strong ubrigens auch, obwohl er fruher mehr gemacht hat.

      Ganz ehrlich die Nominierung war nicht gegeben und ist eine sehr grosse Anerkennung fur eine erste Rolle, sehr wohl verdient, aber es ist auch wahr dass es mehr als nur einen Schauspieler seines Kalibers in London gibt…. Ich kann es nicht leugnen, bloss weil ich ihn mag. Ds andert aber nichts daran dass die Erfahrung mit dem Crucible ganz besonders ist und durch nichts ersetztbar und mit nichts vergleichbar, das macht das Besondere an der Rolle aus und er hat sehr gut gewahlt und ich freue mich dass er diese Rolle gewahlt hat und keine andere, ich wurde es mit nichts tauschen wollen und es war perfekt. (die objektive Frage, die sich eine Jury stellen muss denke ich mal ist wer spielt seine eigene Rolle besser und das ist sehr schwierig, eben weil es naturlich ist dass man einige Rollen/Charaktere mehr mag).
      Crucible ist noch immer das Schonste das ich gesehen hab, weil die Geschichte ganz besonders ist und Proctor jemand ist den man lieben kann, bewundern muss, usw. Und es ist wunderbar jemanden wie R in der Rolle zu haben der ihn so bewundernswert und liebenswert macht 🙂 Sentimental wird mir immer Proctor am nahesten sein 🙂
      Die Frage war aber ob die anderen ihre Rollen genausogut spielen wie er seinen Proctor? Die Antwort darauf ist von mir ein ehrliches ‘ja’, mindestens in einem Fall, und das ist nichtmal der oben beschriebene. Auch wenn die Rollen an sich weniger liebenswert sind 😉

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  2. Thanks for the eyewitness account. I was hearing about this play and Mark Strong all spring from my London friends. No surprise to me that it got so many nominations, and when people are all excited about Armitage winning, this play is the reason I am not getting my hopes up much.

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    • yes it has made waves, but you saw i do have some doubts about it as well. Maybe my expectations were very high after Crucible and after reading such rave reviews about it (no better than for the Crucible i might add though). I think the push against tradition plays a big role here in terms of production. I would agree it is worthy of recognition in that respect, it shows theatre even in London can be sleek, uncluttered and good without loosing the valuable British story-telling tradition.
      The play itself i think is much more problematic, i was in awe of Miller in many ways after the Crucible, this isn’t quite as good 😉 And yes it is Strong’s performance that makes it noteworthy besides the production. But i did walk away with a slight sadness but also certainty that Carbone just isn’t Proctor, he’s not meant to be, of course. But it is just not ‘iconic’ 🙂 Whether that plays any part, no idea…

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  3. Pingback: Hariclea has seen the competition and he is Mark Strong | Me + Richard Armitage

    • yes he is 🙂 It is a very concentrated, captivating performance, i might even be tempted back to the cinema to see it again 😉
      Spoiler alter!! i warn the readers, DO NOT READ ON if you don’t want to know how the play begins! (whispers into Linnet’s ear … it starts with a shower scene, him in his underpants; it’s why i defined him as wiry 😉 Apparently the initial intention was to do that scene naked but in the end it was too impractical)

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        • well, because they are in the courtyard 🙂 Will you now go and see it in the cinema? LOL
          I swear this is not how/why i choose my plays! But this week i had another one prancing about in underpants on stage!

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        • yes, that’s the one 🙂 and really? oh well, good on him, he’s certainly not afraid of anything on stage, and i don’t mean that in the ‘underpants sense’ but generally and in a complimentary way 🙂
          I have to say in none of the cases did i feel it was out of place or just for kicks, quite the contrary.

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        • It’s an eyeful isn’t it? Ben Walker spent a good bit of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” in a towel, and at one point dropped the towel to get dressed. I loved it! Not the same as seeing it onscreen though. There is a vulnerability and immediacy to appearing on stage that way that is very striking to the viewer!

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        • yes and not really:-) Actually in neither of the recent instances was any vulnerability at all involved, quite the contrary, it’s more a state of natural confidence. That’s because it’s refreshingly normal around here tbh. Both on theatre as well as opera stage for example, it’s a fairly common occurrence or rather it is not something people shy away from or think twice about. I think in other places nudity is still used to provoke or shock or get some reaction, happy to say here nobody reacts to it in a normal context. You know when it is set in scene for a particular reason to draw attention. Something else made me actually remember that it was on occurrence in both plays i had seen recently. Thinking back i think it was the case in Frankenstein as well, both with Batchy and Jonny Lee Miller. But in all cases i had to consciously remember that it happened, which tells you how it was just a moment among many. For some good and healthy reason actors and the public here think nothing of it so it is rarely used as a device in itself. Violence still is much more shocking around here than nudity and i am thankful for it 🙂
          What is admirable however is the level of physical investment i’ve seen on stage, long gone are the days where standing or walking around and artfully delivering dialogue was enough 🙂 But that is a good thing too as we get more interesting and varied performances because people are willing to put themselves through quite a lot for art. I still don’t quite understand or know how some of the performances i have seen actually happen 7-8 times a week for weeks on end and these people still manage to stand on their 2 feet at the end of it.

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        • Yes, I think the cultural context for nudity is very important. In the US it is a much bigger deal, I suppose. Even in New York, because a large part of the audience on Broadway is people from other states. Off Broadway it would be less of a thing. Maybe it is the American in me, but no matter how confident the actor, I can’t help but think of being naked as being in some sense vulnerable. Because people will judge and evaluate. The clothed people have the power, you know? It’s hard to imagine the situation you describe, where people barely even notice or remember if an actor is nude. Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time in theaters 🙂

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    • yes i am excited to hear your comments, o think you’ll like him, Strong i mean 😉 I am very tempted to hit the cinema myself as i couldn’t really see their facial expressions from where i was in balcony… we’ll see.
      And yes i did 🙂 In the women’s underwear department of the store in the series ;-))) He was very charming and sweet and put up with our silly smiles 🙂 And he was in period costume, which was an extra bonus. The cherry on top was sitting there afterwards watching a kissing scene being filmed ‘ggg’
      Just glad to see him on stage, hopefully in bigger parts next 🙂

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  4. I’ve seen other productions of ” A View from the Bridge” ( Liev Schreiber & Scarlett Johannson, and and earlier one with Anthony LaPaglia & I forget who else. I’m hoping to get to see this current production on screen. I like the play a lot, although I agree, I recall wondering why we needed the narrator, or if here were used effectively. The actor I saw in the Schreiber production was quite good.
    There are some similar themes to The Crucible, including the protagonists’ depiction as an ordinary man, maintaining their honor ( in one case he loses it, in the other, I guess many people think John Proctor kept or regained his – )- the suffering wife, Also the theme of a man’s place in community, and adhering/ not adhering to community mores is present in both plays – along with sexual temptation and the succumbing of an older man for a younger woman ( although I never thought Abigail’s youth was as key to John Proctor’s fall as Eddie Carbone’s was for his younger niece. ( I see here a difference between Proctor’s needs and Carbone’s desires).
    Either way, it sounds like it was a good experience for you, and that this is the competition to watch out for.

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    • oh those sound like very interesting casts! I think part of the problem with my view was that i did see it pretty close to the Crucible so some associations were inevitable. I agree with you about all the common themes, and also about the difference.I too think there is a fundamental difference between Proctor’s ‘sin’ and Carbone’s desires, in the nature of the error but also in how they deal with it, or don’t in Carbone’s case. I think because of how R portrayed Proctor he allowed me to ultimately see Proctor as a figure of light, even though with shades of grey 😉

      I am sure if i had seen the play without having seen the Crucible i would have been more fascinated by it. The particular slice of society Carbone lives in is a very interesting one, with its rules and constraints. It is one thing that i quickly realised reading the local press reviews. That somehow i think Carbone’s circumstances and his world is easier to understand for audiences here or they are the kind of themes that are more frequent in art /films in Western society. The constraints and conditions of Proctor’s world are somewhat different. Personally, they are closer to my emotions, experiences, sensitivities. Which is why that play is slightly more relevant or interesting to me, but it is just personal choice 😉 I absolutely loved the intricacies of the marital relationship in the Crucible, i agree with a friend of mine who said for her the bit of Crucible which earned Richard the nomination was the second act. I feel the same, every time i saw it, every time it was different, and every time it was mesmerising and touching 🙂

      But i’m trying to keep my head straight on, and as i was saying to Suzy in German above, the award is not about what character or play appeals to me most, (because in that respect the place the Crucible occupies in my heart will always be special), it is about how well each actor plays their individual role, regardless of how appealing the character or play is… and that makes comparisons much harder. I’m glad i have nothing to do with the final choice 😉
      I’m just happy about the well deserved nomination 🙂

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  5. I have booked for the cinema on 26th March precisely so I can get my head around the possibility that Richard Armitage may lose to Mark Strong, I shall look forward to seeing the competition.

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    • i hope you will enjoy it! It is a really good version of the play. i’m afraid that is just one bit of the competition, i’ll share my thought on what i believe is the even stronger contender next 😉

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