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Doomed masculinity: Mark Strong as Eddie Carbone in Ivo van Hove’s production of “A View from the Bridge” (photo: Uli Weber)

British actors of the eye-pleasingly hip variety have been so much in demand in America in the past few years that an agent jokes she might as well run a pipeline from London’s best acting schools to  Hollywood and Broadway.

Mark Strong has crept steadily up the Anglo-rankings in the stellar wake of Tom Hiddleston, Jude Law and Damian Lewis. Specialising in playing screen baddies from le Carré to Kick-Ass (a British-American superhero action comedy, m’lud), his towering physique, handsome baldness and piercing stare are useful adjuncts for characters teetering on the edge of reason.

 In Ivo van Hove’s production of A View from the Bridge at Wyndham’s, Strong takes on the more testing part of a flawed hero and aces his performance as Eddie Carbone, Arthur Miller’s human wrecking ball, destroying his family and betraying his fellow Sicilians in a quest to save his niece from the inevitable path of desire, lust and parting.

From the moment Strong takes to the stage, showering like a grimy Hercules after the day’s dockland labours, his command of the part is absolute. Eddie’s unshakeable certainty about his duty to his niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) is manifest in every gesture, from the finger-snapping dismissal of her desire to work as a secretary to the myopic remorselessness of his fatal misjudgment in betraying her fiancé. Van Hove described the play as “like witnessing a car accident that you see a hundred metres before it happens” and his version — two hours without an interval — works the intensity of the story, as the personable duo of illegal immigrants challenge the hierarchy of the Carbone household.

Sixty years after it was written, A View from the Bridge revives two themes that resonate today: the ambiguities of immigration and the suspicion of the assimilated to those who come after them, and the queasy territory of incestuous longing.

Perhaps the hardest part to nail in a play that is essentially about doomed masculinity is that of the hapless female catalyst. Catherine is caught between her attachment to Eddie and attraction towards Rodolpho (Luke Norris), whose pursuit of marriage may well be intertwined with his hopes of American citizenship.

The short distance travelled by the characters between normality, dysfunction and conflict gives Miller’s work its abiding power, long after the longshoremen of Brooklyn have faded to industrial ghosts. This directing and design team — van Hove and Jan Versweyveld — got a bit lost in their recent Antigone on the vast acreage that is the Barbican stage. In the relatively intimacy of Wyndham’s we see only the exterior of Eddie’s Brooklyn tenement, bounded by a Perspex wall.

The Belgian director’s expertise lies in translating theatre classics so that the moral dilemma and tensions transcend period, allowing us to observe the architecture of the great plays, rather than their period detail. Members of the audience are seated onstage, like extras in a Greek chorus or a silent jury, watching Eddie’s descent into paranoia. It is as evident in Strong’s writhing body language as his fisticuffs with Rodolpho. A striking, blood-soaked, orgiastic finale could as easily come from Sophocles as from Miller’s pen.

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