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He kneels, grasps; and with strain slowly raises the chair higher and higher, getting to his feet now. RODOLPHO and CATHERINE have stopped dancing as MARCO raises the chair over his head.
MARCO is face to face with EDDIE, a strained tension gripping his eyes and jaw, his neck stiff, the chair raised like a weapon over EDDIE’s head – and he transforms what might appear like a glare of warning to a smile of triumph, and EDDIE’s grin vanishes as he absorbs his look.

A view from the Bridge

A View from the Bridge has a very interesting production history.  Miller based the play on the real-life story of a longshoreman who reported the refugees he was sheltering in his own home to the immigration authority when one of them proposed to his niece.

Miller had also spent time around the Mediterranean and wanted to create an American epic drama, avoiding conventions of realist theatre. The first draft of the play was written in verse, but was revised to prose on the advice of Peter Brook.  Surviving elements of Miller’s original epic structure can be seen in the use of the lawyer Alfieri as a semi-omniscient narrator.

I would love to get my hands on the original verse version.  I’ve only seen Bolcom’s opera adaptation before, and his musical production preserves the tone of the play very well.  But it would be great to compare the Bolcom’s libretto to the first version of the play.

The play in its current form was performed for the first time in London on the 11th of October 1956, at a Comedy theatre masquerading as a nightclub.  Due to the kiss between Eddie and Rodolpho in the second act public performance of the play in England had been banned.

This was a very good production.  I particularly enjoyed seeing Hayley Atwell play Catherine after seeing her in last year’s Brideshead Revisited film and the BBC’s ‘modern costume’ adaptation of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty.

A View from the Bridge is playing at Duke of York’s Theatre until the 16th of May.

A View from the Bridge
Arthur Miller.

Duke of York’s Theatre, London.


Wandering can be dangerous:


On Tuesday morning I made a quick visit to the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum on the Royal mile to learn more about Robert Louis Stevenson, one of Edinburgh’s best loved sons. A Edinburgh university graduate and passionate writer, Stevenson makes quite a good mascot for my Scottish adventures.

He was also quite fond of a good wander, making his way through the Pacific to Kiribati, Western Samoa and finally Australia:

“…youth is the time to go flashing from one end of the world to the other, both in mind and body; to try the manners of different nations.”

Stevenson’s days as a young man in Edinburgh seem from all accounts to have been dominated by excessive drinking and philandering with local prostitutes. He apparently fell in love with two such women, but wasn’t permitted by his father to marry either of them.

While Stevenson doesn’t seem to have been particularly focused on his academic work during his time at Edinburgh, he did pursue his writing career with single-minded focus. Forced by his father to study engineering, he sat through classes writing stories in his ‘Book of Original Nonsense’ and founded the University of Edinburgh’s student newspaper, The Student.

Writers' museum

On Tuesday evening I went back to Festival Theatre to see Rodion Shchedrin’s The Enchanted Wanderer. The opera was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 2002, specifically composed for concert stage performance rather than dramatic staging.

I’ve been living 53 years now – been dying my whole life:
but I just can’t seem to die…

The story is about a monk called Ivan that falls in deep platonic love with a gypsy, who in turn falls in deep passionate love with Ivan’s patron, the prince. When the prince marries another woman, the gypsy (in typical operatic gypsy fashion) tricks Ivan into killing her, so she is not forced by her jealousy to kill the prince and his new wife.

You alone loved me,
sweet friend of my heart.
The prince grew sick of me,
wearied with me.
He loved me, and then threw me away…
Prove your love to me now.
Do what I ask of you.

Effective opera gives you real emotion through unbelievably dramatic stories and transcendent music. The Enchanted Wanderer is really about the sacrifices that true friendship demands, and the overpowering nature of love. It’s hard not to like anything that features frenzied gypsy passion so predominantly.

Musically, parts of the score sounded very modern and while the choral sections were more traditional, the two styles merged successfully into one cohesive sound. The program notes classify Shchedrin as a neo-romantic composer. I’d like to hear more of his work to figure out exactly what that means.

The theme for the Edinburgh International Festival this year is ‘artists without borders’; immigration, war, cultural convergence, geopolitics. But The Enchanted Wanderer isn’t really about that. It’s about an inner struggle and journey, a reconciliation of a troubled mind. It’s the sort of journey that art takes you on.

Which is something Robert Louis Stevenson also understood:

“When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge, I take them like opium; and consider one who writes them as a sort of doctor of the mind.”

The Enchanted Wanderer
Rodion Shchedrin
Mariinsky Opera and Orchestra

Festival Theatre Edinburgh

July 2018
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