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There is not a day passes but an Arthur Miller play is performed in some world theatre. Last week it was ‘A View from the Bridge’ in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal. Ken Stott was the tortured Eddie Carbone, New York Italian long-shoreman, trying desperately to manage a changing world shortly after the end of World War II, his wife’s illegal immigrant cousins and his unconfessed passion for Catherine (Hailey Atwell), the teenage niece who stays with him and his wife, Beatrice (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).
Eddie has invested all his hopes in Catherine. His American dream is to be realised by her becoming a secretary in a lawyer’s office. He keeps her under strict control and cannot come to terms with her willingness to accept a job in a plumber’s office in the dockyard area.
The cousins have arrived from Italy and Catherine falls in love with the effete Rudolpho, whom Eddie intuits is ‘not right’. Post-war austerity is exemplified in the bare set and in Eddie’s small pleasures, bowling, a beer, the newspaper, but Catherine, in high heels and flowing dresses, presages the teenage culture which is about blossom. Rudolpho’s fashionable clothes, his purchase, with Catherine, of records for dancing, even his blonde hair, mark him as different and as a threat to Eddie’s barer world. Eddie knows that Rudolpho sees Catherine simply as a ticket to citizenship. Even Catherine realises this but hopes that there is more. Eddie and Beatrice’s own marriage is in crisis but the inarticulate Eddie cannot discuss it with his wife. If Stott plays a man confused by his age and the age in which he lives, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as Beatrice, defends her niece with a clear and determined passion but loves her husband equally.
Eddie appeals for justice to Alfieri, the local Italian lawyer, insisting that since Rudolpho is ‘not right’ the law should intervene and stop the marriage. He is warned that the law has no place in that and that he must let Catherine go. Eddie knows however that the law can intervene from another direction. Against all traditional loyalties of class and country, he betrays the cousins to the immigration authorities. Eddie’s nemesis is swift and brutal. Alfieri mourns Eddie’s passing. He had seen in him something ‘perversely pure’ but is certain at the end that it is ‘better to settle for half’, the compromise which Eddie could not make.
With the Theatre Royal production, the play which started in London has now completed its run. There’s no doubt that the packed Glasgow audiences were partly there to see Stott. They were given so much more. Miller, the old-fashioned liberal, who never accepted the American dream at face value, who was among the most complex of modern dramatists, weaving the mythic, the social and personal together, can still grasp audiences by the throat 50 years after the play was written. It is a tribute to Miller, and to Stott, that inarticulacy can cry out so powerfully.
The above article was first published in The Scottish Review on 9 June 2009:

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