Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’ is as unnervingly relevant today as when written in 1955. The Octagon’s Co-production with Headlong, Chichester Festival Theatre and Rose Theatre delves deep into the murky depths of man’s primal desires and the moral dilemma it presents. Should he, Eddie Carbone, an ordinary inarticulate man, and our hero, let go and settle for half? Or should he engage in an inglorious battle to claim that which he feels he owns? This inevitable tragedy unfolds as Eddie, unable to admit, even to himself, his feelings for his niece, wages a war that brings destruction for all around him and a terrible betrayal of an inviolable community code. As our narrator and observer, lawyer Alfieri, asks: ‘Is it better to settle for half?

First off Jonathan Slinger as Eddie Carbone is sublime. His inner turmoil, angst and rising temper was palpable. He drove this performance; its mercury thermometer rose steadily until it broke the glass. Rachelle Diedericks as Catherine was wonderful to watch and perfectly believable as the young and green Niece falling hopelessly in love with the affable Rodolpho, a distant cousin and undocumented immigrant who Catherine’s family agree to shelter with his brother Marco. Rodolpho, played by Luke Newberry, was perfect as the Italian lover, his comedic timing and beautiful voice made for enjoyable relief in this dark drama. Tommy Sim’aan as Marco was truthfully authentic and honest as the honourable man striving to provide for his family whilst abiding by his code of ethics.

For me, this production, directed by Holly Race Roughan, raised uncomfortable questions around the theme of inappropriate sexual desires between a young and vulnerable girl and her uncle. It also highlighted the issues around historic negative views of same-gender attraction and the inability to confront and deal with one’s emotions instead of projecting their inadequacies onto those around them. There was, it seems, a deliberate attempt to sexualise the behaviour of Catherine, albeit in a naive childish way. The intimacy of their body language for me felt uncomfortable to watch and begged the question: were we to apportion blame for Eddie’s emotions between the two of them? Or accept that this was natural behaviour between a naïve girl and her uncle? The behaviour of wife Beatrice who throughout used flirty almost sensualised movement to portray her sexual frustration and desire to tempt her husband back to her, was at times a distraction from the very real and earnest performance of Kirsty Bushell as Beatrice.

Even the choice of set design by Moi Tran whilst dramatic and engaging gave me the impression of sleaze. An entirely black polished floor and walls with a dominant red neon sign displaying ‘Red Hook’, the place in which the story is set.

I accept you could argue the black set symbolised water and the darkness within. However, for me, the neon sign overpowered the set.

There was a clever use of the dock worker/ballet dancer played by Elijah Holloway (doubled as Louis / Immigration Officer whose infectious laughter delighted the audience) He would appear dancing tantalisingly, as if dominating Eddie’s thoughts. It was great to see, for the first time, lawyer Alfieri played by a woman, Nancy Crane. However, as with many productions there were times when it was hard to hear her, and I note there were some audience members in the interval saying they could not hear some of the companies’ words when they were shouting. I also note that for those who have hearing impairments there is a BSL Interpreted and Captioned performance, Tuesday 19th September,7:30pm

Overall, this was, again, another great production by the Octagon, whose choice to co-produce some of its programmed schedule allows for some excellent shows North of the capital.