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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


  A View from the Bridge
By Arthur Miller


New Venture Theatre, Brighton
Directed by Mark Wilson

As I write, the unlikely minister for work and pensions, ‘quiet man’, Norman Tebbit mini-me, oh, and former leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan-Smith is urging the unemployed to get on their bikes to look for work. He says he’ll even pay for them to move down south, or up north, or wherever.

This is despicable on many levels, not least in its hypocrisy. For the likes of IDS when enterprising people travel from abroad to this country to find gainful employment it’s out of order. So what are we supposed to do?

Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, superbly, grippingly acted by just about the whole cast in New Venture’s production, reminds us that economic migration is endemic to a modern capitalist economy. The ‘illegal’ immigrant cousins who turn up at Eddie and Beatrice’s home in New York are welcomed, housed and found jobs by the descendants of an earlier generation of Italian immigrants.

That is, until Catherine (Hannah Brain), Eddie and Beatrice’s orphaned niece, falls for the younger one, Rodolpho (Nick Heanen). Eddie (Bill Arundel) is jealous, to put it simply, and does what any good American would do and speaks to his lawyer. Is there no way he can put a stop to it?

“The guy ain’t right,” he tells Alfieri (Jerry Lyne), his plain meaning being that Rodolpho is gay, on the uncontrovertible evidence that he sings, buys nice clothes, makes people laugh and in an unguarded moment altered the hem on Catherine’s frock.

Unfortunately, there’s no law to deal with this, so one thing leads to another and it all ends in tears.

You could see A View from the Bridge as a family drama, a superior soap opera dealing with the relationship between a father and his daughter, his reluctance to let her grow up and and find her independence. Everyone tells Eddie that’s what he ought to do, and even he seems to take it on board after getting talking to from Beatrice (Tessa Pointing) the wife he simultaneously oppresses and respects.

So far, a perfectly good, if slightly dull, study of the complexities and trials of family life. Miller goes further, though, by situating his story in a broader socio-economic dimension.

It’s Eddie who is the nexus of the personal and the political, a man fraught by internal and external pressures, trying to do the best thing in a predicament where there is no best thing, and ending up doing the worst thing.

His relationship with Catherine is certainly sexually ambivalent, as is his own sexuality as he plants a rough, manly smacker on the lips of Rodolpho, who is almost as shocked by the assault as the audience.

But this sexual aspect seems somehow twisted up with the economic. Eddie is not a rich man and is in precarious employment himself. He has invested a great deal, emotionally and financially, in Catherine. In a way he has invested his whole self in the hope of a future, better life.

A better future what children often are to working class people, and it’s the kids economic migrants are thinking of, too, when they risk themselves in a foreign country. When Eddie shops him to the immigration office cousin Marco (Jeff Smith) spits out the charge that he is killing his children back home in Italy.

The Tories go on about the importance of families, but they don’t know the half of it.

June 27, 2010

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