Duke Of York's, London WC2
Opened 5 February, 2009

Arthur Miller’s 1955 drama is unmatched on the extremes to which we can go in order to rationalise our feelings, and the anguished knots in which we can tie ourselves if pressed to articulate or even to consciously recognise those feelings. Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone is outraged when told that he is overly possessive of his teenage niece Catherine, and can barely even comprehend that there may be a sexual element to it; still less that her involvement with his Sicilian illegal-immigrant lodger Rodolpho might have given rise in him to jealousy not just of Catherine, but also of Rodolpho. He could not conceive of such complications, such deformities, in himself. But we see them in his Puritanism towards Catherine’s social life, in the excuse he finds to punch Rodolpho under cover of teaching him boxing, in the way he sits glowering, twisting the newspaper in his hands in Ken Stott’s performance here, and ultimately in the betrayal which alienates him from his family and community.
Stott is excellent at this aspect of Eddie. His voice shifts from a wheedle to a rasp to a buzzsaw, he speaks volumes with a look, and is consummate at the physical torment as he tries both to see and to avoid seeing the unbearable truth. This is the territory of Miller’s first half, and Lindsay Posner’s production teems with unspoken unquiet. The second half works less well, partly due to Miller’s more overt writing, but also to a shortfall in physicality. Stott does not convey a sense that if and when he goes amok he could do untold damage. This is not an Eddie who could cow his wife Beatrice as she has been cowed. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Beatrice is grown haggard and resigned in the service of her family, but has not subsided entirely: Mastrantonio’s silent acting is masterly in the minute or so before Beatrice gives voice to her realisation that Eddie has ratted on his own relations to the immigration authorities.
Hayley Attwell’s Catherine is an appealing combination of feistiness and devotion; as Rodolpho, Harry Lloyd has the requisite easy, winning manner but lacks the magnetism to make him a sexual threat. Nor do Posner and designer Christopher Oram locate the Carbones within a palpable community with common values and attitudes. After that first-rate first act, the atmosphere dissipates just as it should be thickening.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2009

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage