Theatrical Frame of Reference

As I’ve indicated before, I see many more films than plays. The difficulties in obtaining theatre tickets have been well rehearsed, as have the prices. One consequence is that I feel less confident in delivering my usual pompous pronouncements after theatrical visits. My experiences of plays are infrequent and fragmented, compared with the fairly constant flow of films. If there’s an equivalent of Sight and Sound for the stage, I don’t buy it.

Last night, we went to see A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic. My companion obtained the tickets, after we were frustrated in our attempts to see Happy Days, at the same venue. It’s not a play I’ve seen before and, other than the usual Front Row item that I can’t avoid in my podcast conveyor, I deliberately didn’t expose myself to any reviews or publicity.

We were sitting right next to the stage, so we could see the veins and the hairs on the arms.

I’ll leave proper reviews to people more well qualified. What I will say is that, in spite of uniformly strong performances, I felt something wasn’t quite right. It didn’t seem good enough to say that, so I tried to think more carefully. It’s clear Miller was aiming for the effect of classical Greek tragedy, complete with the lawyer as Chorus. However, I felt that somehow it hadn’t earned the significance for which it yearned. The actors didn’t have enough raw material to convey the effects I think Miller wanted.

My companion disagreed, suggesting various perspectives from Miller’s personal biography and that it was from the McCarthyite era. Reading reviews after a journey home enlivened by the first effects of the latest strike on the Tube, including comments from the director, it was clear that the production was quite unusual in abstracting away from the precise stage directions and the brownstone sets Miller would have imagined. Maybe I’ll have to hold my opinion in provisional abeyance until I’ve seen another version. I didn’t have any such qualms about Inner Voices at the Barbican, though that may have been in part because of the surtitles and the exuberant film/Q&A with Toni Servillo earlier that day. Union, at the Lyceum in Edinburgh, though, was unambiguously bad, not helped by an intrusive production.

In time, no doubt, I’ll build up to a level of confident blitheness.

I believe it is possible to obtain tickets for A View from the Bridge on the day, if you’re very keen, and I would certainly recommend it. Always best to make up your own mind…




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