Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mercury Theatre Company at the Mercury Theatre Colchester
until April 30

The Mercury continue their exploration of the Miller canon with this powerful 1950s drama set in the poor immigrant community huddled round the “gullet of New York”.

Men of Sicilian stock struggle to survive; illegal immigrants are lodged in already crowded apartments. They live in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, and its verses are illuminated as part of Michael Vale's inspired set design. From the perspective of the bridge, their world is insignificant, but the playwright, and his lawyer Chorus, take us into their world, with its links to an ancient past, and its grubby tragedies.

We see the stage stripped back to black. Black girders, black chainlink fencing, and a string of domestic interiors – chintz, leatherette, lampshades with tassels. Neighbours go about their lives, their interest occasionally stirred by an argument, a song; they finally emerge when the cops drag the cousins away.

Roger Delves-Broughton was our guide; modest, not without humour, he waits for the tragedy to unfold, powerless to intervene.

Eddie Carbone, longshoreman, who never expected a destiny, was played with palpable intensity by Tim Treslove. He is a possessive guardian to his wife's niece – their quiet lives are troubled by the arrival of the boys from Sicily: macho, hard-working Marco [Lucian Dodero], and Rodolpho, blond, musical, and “not right” in Eddie's eyes. A touching performance by Pete Ashmore, as he wooed the young Catherine, given a truthful, moving characterization by Ella Vale. Gina Isaac was Eddie's wife, down-trodden and frustrated.
Ten actors peopled the apartments and the streets, in a defiantly perfectionist move which is typical of the Mercury's production values.

Janice Dunn's impeccable production successfully evoked the passionate, fast-talking world of these immigrants with their roots in the Mediterranean. The atmospheres, the tensions were almost unbearable at times, and she made the most of the set-pieces like the dancing, the boxing, the messy arrest, the show of strength that ends Act One.

The ending, when it comes, is as powerful as anything in Shakespeare, and leaves us pondering the timeless emotions, the human frailty that cost Carbone his life.

photograph by Robert Day

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

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