Miller’s classic tragedy of lust and betrayal is given a bold and confident reworking in this stylish Maddermarket production.
The set is stripped back to little more than a square of white flooring, a solitary chair, and a plain backdrop that serves as a screen for shadow plays throughout the action.
The colour is instead provided by lawyer Alfieri, whose narrator role is beefed up with additional dialogue and stage time, roaming through the action as Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie becomes increasingly frustrated at his niece Catherine’s developing relationship with illegal immigrant Rodolfo, to the concern of both Eddie’s wife Bea and Rodolfo’s brother Marco.
Greg Lindsay-Smith rises magnificently to the call as Alfieri, the wise but impotent commentator who, like the audience, can anticipate what is going to happen but can do nothing to prevent it.
As Eddie, Nick Meir is a study of masculine frustration: tense, troubled, terrified of acknowledging his taboo desires. The opening of act two, where he returns worse for alcohol, is brilliantly played: a slight off-balance to his deportment conveys everything we need to know.
Miller is sometimes criticised for the two female parts being underwritten but Panda Monium gives Beatrice plenty of character: a strong woman that guides her niece and stands up to her husband. Similarly Nyree Williams turns in robust and believable Catherine.
Jose Tarouca’s Marco is brooding and dark while Ben Prudence as Rodolfo is contrastingly slight, literally given their physical differences as demanded by Miller’s tale.
Jez Pike’s direction and design takes several liberties with the script. The boldness mostly plays off but the focus on Alfieri dislocates us a little from the meat of the play, and Catherine’s girlish fascination with Eddie is almost entirely excised. The shadow plays sometimes work well – such as suggesting the secretary at Alfieri’s office – but can feel like a conceit in search of a purpose.
On its own terms though this is an immensely powerful and enjoyable production, and a View not to be missed.