Archive | April 2015

“A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller -Touring Consortium Theatre Company, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

bridge 3Like Ibsen’s intimate social dramas, the family is often the focus in Arthur Miller’s plays through which he observes a private, personal crisis, echoing wider American issues of the time.

Miller wrote truthfully from his own experience. His Polish-Jewish parents suffered financially after the Depression and in the 1940s he worked in the Brooklyn docks, the impoverished, Sicilian-Italian-immigrant neighbourhood of “A View from the Bridge”:

“This is Red Hook … the slum that faces the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge. This is the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world”.

The setting is the Carbone’s small ground-floor apartment of a three storey, red brick townhouse, the home of Eddie, his wife Bea and her 17 year old niece, Catherine. It’s imaginatively, economically designed, with fire-escape steps, a backdrop of the industrial waterfront and telegraph wires, with the central kitchen-diner and bedroom beyond. A shadowy, gloomy mood is depicted by shabby, furniture, soft lamp light and a sense of winter chill in the air.

Michael Brandon as Alfieri

Michael Brandon as Alfieri

Based on a factual event, the personal, tragic tale of Eddie Carbone, a hard working longshoreman (dock labourer), is narrated by Alfieri, a feisty, tough-speaking lawyer. His role is like the chorus in Greek Tragedy, to give a precise appraisal of the characters, their feelings, motives and actions.

In the first person style of Hammet and Chandler crime novels, (think Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade), he addresses the audience to describe meeting Eddie a few months earlier:

His eyes were like tunnels; my first thought was that he had committed a crime, but soon I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger.”

In a series of flashbacks, we observe the tight-knit Carbone household, the women preparing a frugal dinner, Eddie drinking a beer, smoking a cigar. Overly protective as a father figure, he treats Kate as if still a little girl, oblivious that she is now a young woman.

Eddie and Catherine

Eddie and Catherine

The arrival of Bea’s cousins, Marco and Rodolfo from Italy starts of amenably, as Eddie acts the genial host offering bed, board, and, moreover, a safe haven as illegal immigrants. But when Kate becomes involved with the handsome blond Rodolpho, Eddie’s deep (perhaps unnatural) affection for his niece sparks serious conflict.

Bea and Catherine are enamoured with their Italian guest, Rodolfo

Bea and Catherine are enamoured with their Italian guest, Rodolfo

The fact that he can sing, cook and sew is effeminate in his view, “the guy aint right,” he confides to Alfieri, in his attempt to find a legal way to break up the romance.

Jonathan Guy Lewis portrays Eddie’s bullish, bullying attitude with a simmering aggression bubbling under the surface. His contempt for Rodolfo is clearly expressed in his sneering, sardonic tone of voice.

bridge 1

Catherine is portrayed by Daisy Boulton with a blend of sweet girlishness and blossoming femininity. With her happy go lucky nature, she tries to appease the growing tension between the three men, aided by the quiet, kindly Bea.   The smooth, well paced direction is like a neatly choreographed dance, with lighting, music and costumes all adding to encapsulate the vintage period manner and style.

Eddie is a tragic figure willing to sacrifice everything for his deluded convictions, personal pride and repressed sexuality. His repeated mantra demanding respect for him, his name, his home, shows a man about to crack out of control, the emotionally-wrought atmosphere heightened by rich poetic language.

Eddie Carbone - disillusioned by his moral convictions and family love.

Eddie Carbone – torn between moral convictions and family loyalty.

As a commentary on the desperate fate of Marco and Rodolfo within the wider context of American life, Miller believed in the theatre’s ability to bring about social change. With the current global crisis of refugees and illegal immigrants, this is a timeless tale of political economy and civil rights.

With a large number of schoolchildren in the audience, I envisaged texting and sweet rustling. But not a word was heard as we became drawn into this chilling, Shakespearian-themed drama of patriarchy, passion, betrayal and revenge.

 

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – 28 April to 2 May, 2015  – http://www.edtheatres.com

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The Riparian Rooms – leisurely, lazy, all day eating and drinking (just imagine a riverbank view)

The Riparian Rooms,  7-11 East London Street, Edinburgh EH7 4BN  

http://www.theriparianrooms.co.uk; tel. 0131 556 6102

Now that the urban village of Stockbridge has become an exciting foodie destination, it was time for more Edinburgh neighbourhood districts to offer good eating and drinking venues. The opening of the Riparian Rooms has thus been warmly welcomed by local Broughton – Bellevue and New Town residents.

riparian chairs

This exciting new venture has been a long term dream project for property entrepreneurs Neil Robb and Lynne Ritchie who searched for many years to find the right location. When the former Locanda de Gusti ristorante moved from East London Street to Dalry, Robb and Ritchie had found the ideal corner site opposite the Mansfield Traquair church.

River in Latin is Ripa and Riparian means ‘relating to or situated on the banks of a river.’  The restaurant name is inspired by the history of Broughton, originally Broc Tun, “the farm beside the brook”. This ancient brook, is now an underground river flowing from York Place down Broughton Street to the Water of Leith.

The owners’ aim is to create a restaurant that feels like a home from home …“Whether it’s breakfast at 4pm or cake and a cocktail at 1pm we want to accommodate our guests anytime of the day”

They have handpicked a professional team to be in charge – Head Chef Gary Cromie (formerly at Orroco Pier and Waldorf Astoria, New York, where Waldorf salad was invented), with managers, Stuart Thom, founder of Olive Branch bistros, and Peter Adshead, from the Pompadour, Waldorf Astoria. Edinburgh.

Bar - Cafe-Diner-Bistro for all day eating and drinking

Bar – Cafe-Diner-Bistro for all day eating and drinking

The place was packed on the Thursday night just after Easter, when Ken and I visited for dinner; clearly the word has spread. The spacious, light-filled Bar-Brasserie has a smart-casual ambience, fashionably industrial chic decor, stripped back stone walls, dark wood, softened with leather, velvet and patterned drapes depicting willow trees and reeds along a tranquil river.

An outdoor patio of rattan seats and tables is the ideal place for alfresco drinks and meals. Just imagine a scenic view sitting on a rural riverbank.

Riverbank decorated drapes

Riverbank decorated drapes

 

 

 

 

 

And so to the menu. Scottish produce – from porridge, black pudding and haggis for breakfast, to classic Cullen Skink, shellfish, beef, and Mull cheddar, the backbone of the cuisine.

To start, three Loch Fyne Oysters served with shallot and red wine vinegar. Salty-sweet and succulent, I could easily have enjoyed half a dozen. (Perhaps ring the changes and offer the option of Tabasco, a chilli or champagne dressing, gin & tonic marinated oysters ?).  With this I sipped a glass of ice –cold Deutz Classic champagne.

Meanwhile Ken consumed a hearty bowl of Carrot soup. When we asked Corey, our friendly waiter, to describe it – he said, “just carrot!.” Pure, smoothly textured without thick calorific cream and very tasty.

Next, a well-presented bowl of Pan-fried Sea Bass on a nest of cherry tomatoes, green beans, sautéed baby potatoes drizzled with rocket oil. I appreciated the light, fresh simplicity of this Gluten Free fish dish, with no need to smother it in a richly flavoured sauce.

Across the table, my partner selected a layered tower of Butternut Squash, wild mushrooms, truffled potato all topped with poached duck egg. Excellent!. At last, an inventive, appetising veggie dish. Our selected wine was a bottle of Chilean Carmenere, well described as an aroma of cherries, coffee and vanilla. After this feast, just enough of an appetite to share a platter of cheese with home made crispy oatcakes.

The Burrow Below - the sassy Cellar bar

The Burrow Below – the sassy Cellar bar

We ended the evening downstairs in the Burrow Below, a nightclubby-cellar bar, except all very relaxed and mellow and the ideal spot for a cool Cocktail – a Martinez, (gin, triple sec, dash of bitters, lemon twist). The soft jazzy soundtrack, played upstairs and here, adds just the right background mood.

The flexible menu flows seamlessly from breakfast-brunch (served daily till 5pm – hurrah!), blending into lunch service and then flowing through to martini-time and dinner.

riparian drink

 

 

 

There’s a distinctive ambience, welcoming hospitality and fresh, seasonal, Scottish food about this carefully crafted and designed Bar and Brasserie. Riparian Rooms has clearly achieved its aim to create a meeting place for all day sociable, leisurely eating and drinking, from morning coffee to late night cocktails..

The Riverbank heritage is a subtle theme…. and could be enhanced beyond the decorative drapes, with a magical story of its quirky sense of place ….

Never in his life had he seen a river before .. glints and gleams, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. He sat on the bank while the river chattered to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
From, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Kenneth Graham was born at 30 Castle Street, Edinburgh, now Castleview guest house.