Sunday, 8 February 2009


6/2/09, Duke of York's Theatre

Ken Stott in one of Arthur Miller's great plays of the 1950s, a study in jealousy and betrayal which also touches on a topic of great contemporary interest, illegal immigration, directed by Lindsay Posner.

Stott plays Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman, married to Beatrice (a rather pallid Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). They have no children but have brought up their niece Catherine (Hayley Atwell) with whom Eddie is infatuated. They agree to find a home for two illegal immigrants (engagingly known as "submarines"), relatives of Beatrice from back home in Sicily.
Catherine falls for the younger brother and Eddie is consumed with jealousy and also, it appears from the text, with suppressed homosexual longing for the boy. That wasn't clear from Stott's performance, which implied straightforward homophobia in his repeated assertions that the boy, who could sing and dance, had blond hair and liked enjoying himself, "wasn't right". Ultimately Eddie betrays the men to the immigration authorities to prevent the marriage, and the older brother denounces him. He loses his good name and becomes an outcast, a situation from which he is rescued only when the older brother takes revenge and kills him.

So it's recognisably a classical tragedy and there is even a chorus, in the shape of a lawyer (a fine performance by Alan Corduner) in whom Eddie confides from time to time and who addresses the audience directly.
So Eddie is a tragic hero with tragic flaws -- perhaps too many of them. Dan said he'd find it easier if Eddie were more sympathetic. And it's true, he's hard to like. Was that the performance or the writing?

The set was challenging: the outside of a Brooklyn tenement which rose to reveal the main room of the Carbone's apartment on the ground floor. The interior was fine; but in the exterior scenes the corner of the building jutted down to the front of the stage, dividing the playing area awkwardly into two.
In a pivotal scene Eddie returns home to find Catherine and the boy canoodling and confronts them. There was a gratifying intake of breath when at one point he kisses Catherine full on the lips; and another a second or two later when he kisses the boy.
Stott is a fine actor and inhabited the part with conviction, bandy-legged and stooped. Scott, who is Scottish, complained that at moments of passion the Brooklyn accent slipped and Stott the Scot came through... but I didn't notice.
The Guardian called it "perfectly decent", which is damning with faint praise but about right. Seats up against the back wall of the dress circle came in at a whopping £50, which seemed a bit steep.

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