The plays of William Shakespeare have the dubious honour of being the most reinvented, reimagined, dressed-up, dumbed-down, and generally meddled-with works ever staged. To a less prolific extent, the same is true of the Classical canon of ancient Greece. In unskilled hands, countless injustices have been inflicted on these texts by pretentious or gimmicky interpretations. And yet, with a theatre-maker of vision at the helm, these plays still have fresh truths and unseen revelations to share, hundreds or even thousands of years after their conception.
It seems telling that the most potent muses of Arthur Miller – that titan of American theatre – were the Greek Classics and the Bard. Miller’s plays seem to have centuries of discoveries hidden within them, all waiting to be unlocked by visionary directors.
In his stark and streamlined production of A View from the Bridge (1955), Iain Sinclair demonstrates this in action. Though less cherished than his two most famous plays, Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953), it may well be the work that most succinctly epitomises Miller’s creative inspirations, making explicit connections to the Classical masterworks he so revered. Indeed, the first iteration of this twentieth-century Greek tragedy was penned as a verse epic. (Responding to a decidedly tepid reception, Miller later revised into its current, more conventional form.)