3:42pm Thursday 21st May 2009
By Ian Ray
Sometimes there’s too much,” Eddie Carbone is cautioned in Miller’s play, “too much love for the daughter, too much love for the niece.”
The Brooklyn stevedore’s painfully obsessive need for his niece finds its expression in a magnificent performance from Ken Stott. From his sickeningly sweet cow eyes at the dinner table at the start of the play to the savage intensity of his pride at its conclusion, Stott plays out Eddie’s march towards pariah-hood with total conviction.
His world becomes destabilised when Catherine takes her first tentative steps towards adulthood with Rodolpho, one of two illegal immigrants Eddie’s family has secretly taken in.
Hayley Atwell is entirely convincing in her portrayal of Catherine’s shift from uneasy surrogate lover to staunch defender of her new fiancee, but Harry Lloyd’s overactive reading of Rodolpho was grating enough that it was easy to empathise with Eddie’s loathing.
The intrusion of the younger man gives the piece its most cracklingly potent scenes, as Eddie makes a play for the alpha male role.
His strangulated attempts to imply to his lawyer – also the chorus of this classically-proportioned play – that Rodolpho is a homosexual expertly expose the hypocrisy of Miller’s age (particularly given the hint at Eddie’s own frustrated feelings for the younger man).
A beautifully-designed tenement set – divided by an imposing wall that rolls up and down – is bathed in balmy ochres for much of the dialogue, dropping to a harsher contrast as each “episode” ends and the wall rumbles back into place to seal the actors inside.
The sparse hums and horns of the music is also well-pitched, evoking the family’s waterfront existence, but Lindsay Posner’s production hinges entirely on the strength of its performances.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is superbly graceful under considerable fire as Eddie’s neglected and emotionally literate wife, and forms a perfect, measured foil for Stott’s exceptional performance.
Even the cloth-eared audience member who failed to heed the many warnings to switch mobile phones off couldn’t shake Stott’s concentration.
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