Director Juliet Forster talks about staging Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge at York Theatre Royal and Royal & Derngate Northampton.
I consider it one of the best plays ever written, an extraordinary text and a brilliant and unforgettable experience as an audience member seeing the play. It’s a play that I really love.
Look at the climate in this country – and across the world really – of the shifting attitude and antagonism towards immigration, particularly that idea of economic immigration. The play brilliantly introduces these immigrant characters in a way that allows us to sympathise with them and understand they are not a threat. It should be a basic human right that we can move to where there is work so we can feed our family, and this comes through powerfully. It’s a really strong theme in the play even though it’s the back story to the central story of what happens to Eddie Carbone. The play also raises questions around different models of masculinity and that’s also something that feels very current to our world. It also explores what could drive someone to betray everything they believe in and destroy everything they hold dear – this is what really makes the play so vital and dramatic. So you are talking about a fantastic story and brilliant text already, in what feels a very contemporary setting and a universal story despite being set in 1950s Brooklyn Italian-American community.
It will certainly be different to some productions I’ve seen. I am interested in the migrancy themes in the play, and in some respects I was interested in expanding the relevance of the story beyond the very specific Italian-American setting by recruiting a very mixed cast in terms of ethnicity and nationality. People with roots in lots of different parts of the world because this is a play that spreads out into being quite a global issue instead of being focussed on just one community. That will be different in itself.
People have used a community cast before in productions of the play but just like the actors every community cast is different and they will bring their own flavour to it. I am very excited about working with the community casts in York and in Northampton.
It is an extraordinary bunch of actors. A lot of them are based in the North of England and Scotland rather than London so it’s quite nice to be working with our regionally based actors. It’s a very exciting cast and really strong company. Some represent different areas of the world and relate to the immigrants story through their parents.
Someone assumed I was doing what has just been done just recently with a production of Death of a Salesman – using a black cast and transposing the play into that community. That wasn’t what I was thinking. In Arthur Miller’s autobiography (Timebends) he talks about going to see an extract from A View from the Bridge done at a drama school performed by a Korean Eddie, a Jewish Beatrice, a Black Marco and a Chinese Rodolpho, and how surprised and moved he was by the raw force of the acting, which stayed with him for a long time. Reading that, made me want to see that version! The power of the drama, of Miler’s writing and the dynamics of the relationships in the play, seemed to me to be bigger than the confines of the setting, and relevant to all of us.
I directed The Crucible at York Theatre Royal and a sort of derivative of A View from the Bridge many years ago that ran alongside a production of that play being staged by Harrogate Theatre. I created a piece that went alongside it in schools with two actors and that was very immersive piece.
Yes, on a production of The Machine Stops in the Studio at York Theatre Royal in 2016. I went straight to him because I just felt he was a really good fit for A View from the Bridge. The Machine Stops was a really good process to work with and also I just felt he’s got an imagination that can lift things out of being too literal or too realistic but retain something that is consistently readable as the world in which the play is set. Our set too is quite different from versions I’ve seen before. That’s exciting and is going to create a very interesting world on stage.
A View from the Bridge is at York Theatre Royal from 20 September to 12 October and Royal and Derngate Northampton from 15 – 26 October.