Shrewsbury School

'A View From the Bridge' - directed by Lower Sixth Former Orlando Williams

Friday 6 December 2019

"The Extended Project Qualification has provided the opportunity for a number of fantastic student-directed performances over the last few years. This stands as one of the finest."

Review by Dr Helen Brown, Director of Drama:

Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge is set in Red Hook: in Miller’s day, a thriving commercial port, and now home to troubled housing projects and artisanal coffee-shops.

The play tells the story of a decent, hardworking longshoreman, Eddie Carbone (played by director Orlando Williams) who lives in Red Hook with his wife Beatrice (Phoebe Morris) and niece Katherine (Kate Woodman). Trouble arrives in the form of Beatrice’s cousins, two illegal Italian immigrants entering the country ‘under the water’ to escape the poverty and unemployment of post-war Sicily. Marco (Ed Tarling) is a strong-but-silent type, so he and Eddie get on fine. However, Eddie is instantly suspicious of the younger brother, Rodolpho, whose flamboyant disregard for traditional gender roles sets Eddie’s teeth on edge.

Williams’ thrillingly claustrophobic version, staged in the intimate surroundings of Quod, translated the action to a monochrome square – a bit like a boxing ring, a bit like a prison cell – with the audience surrounding it on three sides.

The intimacy between actors and audience made us all complicit in the uncomfortable truth of Eddie’s desire for Katherine; a desire that leads him to thwart her love for Rodolpho and ultimately betray his own most deeply-held principles. This is a play about passion, honour, truth: challenging ideas for a young cast and director to grapple with. The fact that they did so with such maturity and commitment is testament both to their talent and to the genuinely collaborative working relationship they have built up during their time at Shrewsbury.

Williams’ extraordinary and visceral performance showed a man who has become a stranger to himself, a paragon of manhood unmanned and set adrift both by his own desires and by challenges to his masculine assumptions. He was ably supported by fellow Lower Sixth Drama Scholar Phoebe Morris, who brought great warmth and compassion to the role of Beatrice. Ed Pickersgill and Kate Woodman – both still in the Fourth Form – delivered extraordinarily confident and nuanced performances as the star-crossed Katherine and Rodolpho, capturing the poignancy of first love.

The Greek chorus to this tragedy is the lawyer Alfieri, who narrates the action from the safety of his office. Thoughtfully played by Olivia Barnes, Alfieri provides a link between Red Hook and the outer world, enabling us to escape the intensity of Eddie’s obsession and see things with perspective. The final moment of the production, where Barnes covered the blood-spattered set with white dust sheets, was an inspired piece of direction, paying homage to the cyclical nature of the play.

The EPQ qualification has provided the opportunity for a number of fantastic student-directed performances over the last few years. This stands as one of the finest, and huge congratulations are due to the cast and crew.

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