My ear for accents is pretty poor; I think that Dick Van Dyke does a passable Cockney. So as to assess this show accurately, and crucially the Noo Yoik accents, I brought my American friend along to pass judgement. We were in agreement that this young company from UCL pulled this off incredibly well, sounding as though they were born and bred in the Big Apple. No one does (comparatively) modern tragedy on epic Aristotelian scales quite like Arthur Miller, so it is always interesting to see fresh takes by new companies on the pathos and flawed heroes that are the bread and butter of the genre.
Eddie (Adam Pabani) was the cast standout; a compact mass of repressed desire and culturally-confused ideas of justice. He articulated perfectly Eddie’s desperation, caught between filial and romantic love for his niece, Catherine (Marina Hopkins). Hopkins was a winning, lovable Catherine, but didn’t quite convey the two states the character oscillates between of girlhood and womanhood, causing so much emotional turmoil to her uncle.
Beatrice is a role easily overshadowed by the bigger players but Melissa Taylor’s Brooklyn housewife had a shrewd intelligence. Bar Alfieri, only she seems to see events unclouded by bias, seeming aware of approaching catastrophe when others remain oblivious.
Unfortunately, the nuanced portrayals of the Brooklyn set were complemented by the overegged characterization of the characters newly arrived from Italy. Marco sounded more Eastern European than Italian and while his hulking immigrant had plenty of brawn, the brain aspect of a fairly complex and multilayered character was unfortunately lost. Rodolfo was also slightly lacking in subtlety, a cartoonish portrayal of a flamboyant Italian.
The slowly building tension was strongly conveyed; the moment when Marco demonstrates his physical strength to Eddie by lifting a heavy chair with one hand was particularly overlaid with menace. Less effective were the arrest and fight scenes which felt unchoreographed and clumsy - sitting on the end of a row I was in danger of being knocked out of my seat.
The relationship between Eddie, Catherine and Beatrice carried the piece, Miller’s dialogue perfectly pitched and delivered. A very classy production.