A View from the Bridge set for Lyceum - Liam Brennan interview
Latest Arthur Miller play adapted by John Dove for Edinburgh theatre
As A View from the Bridge becomes the latest play by Arthur Miller to grace the Lyceum, Yasmin Sulaiman talks to actor Liam Brennan about his passion for the playwright’s work
Since 2004’s Death of a Salesman, John Dove’s Arthur Miller productions have become something of a regular fixture at the Lyceum. His subsequent versions of All My Sons, The Price and The Man Who Had All the Luck won him plaudits and in January 2011, A View from the Bridge will be his fifth such outing. The New York-set play concentrates on Eddie Carbone, the patriarch in an Italian American family who live near Brooklyn Bridge, whose life is rocked when two illegal immigrant cousins come to stay.
Often passed over for safer bets like Salesman and The Crucible, A View from the Bridge experienced a resurgence in popularity earlier this year when a Broadway production led to Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson winning a Tony Award for her portrayal of Carbone’s neice, Catherine. The Lyceum’s cast borrows heavily from the theatre’s past productions, including this season’s Romeo and Juliet and The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as Dove’s previous Miller outings.
One of these stars is Liam Brennan, a frequent Lyceum collaborator who previously worked with Dove on Measure for Measure at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2004 and will play the narrator figure Alfieri in the play. Although Brennan has not starred in any of Dove’s Miller productions to date, he has much praise for the director’s approach to the work. ‘John has a wonderful gift of not getting in the way of the play,’ he says. ‘I mean that in the best possible sense. He does not over-clutter the production in any way and just lets the piece speak for itself. When writing is this good, you almost want the direction and the production to be invisible.’
Indeed, Brennan exudes reverence for the playwright, citing this play and Salesman as his favourite Miller works. ‘The way he deals with family is just brilliant,’ he explains. ‘It’s very American: people are trying to achieve, to make a living, to improve themselves - that’s all in there. At the end of A View from the Bridge, when my character Alfieri talks about Eddie Carbone, he says that although he can’t admire his actions in the play he admires that he “allowed himself to be wholly known”. I love this idea that the lead character is someone that can’t help but completely follow-through on who they are, even if that leads to tragedy.’
The ultimate tragic turn is unsurprising in Miller’s work but this particular play takes its structural cues from Greek Tragedy, to which end Brennan’s narrator plays a pivotal role, and will leave few audience members guessing the fate of its protagonist. However, for Brennan, it’s the playwright’s treatment of humanity and not his atmosphere of impending misfortune that is most potent. He says: ‘The reason I love Miller is that he just cuts through to the humanity of everything. He’s very interested in the human heart and what’s going on between people: the rawness of people in extremity, how they behave, how circumstances affect them, what they hold on to and what they reject. Whether it’s love and misunderstanding, whatever the backdrop may be, for me, that’s very much what his writing is about.’
A View from the Bridge, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 14 Jan–Sat 12 Feb.