As the lights come up, a crate is lowered from above, like a shipment being unloaded in the Brooklyn docks. Beneath the metal stairways and steel beams of Rhys Jarman’s set, the cargo opens to produce the accessories of longshoreman Eddie Carbone’s home – as precarious as the life he’s scratched out for his family and as the status of the illegal immigrants they harbour in Arthur Miller’s classic play.
Juliet Forster’s production is solid but unremarkable. The set – so promising in those opening moments – is underused, as are the community ensemble. Most of the action is confined to a small square of the stage, with the hulking walkway looming emptily above. The community players occasionally create the sense of a neighbourhood watching on, but more could be made of their presence.
The performances, likewise, are steady and believable, yet they rarely discover anything new. Lines hit the ear as you’d expect them to, and emotions escalate to a familiar pitch. Forster’s is a faithful rendering of Eddie’s (Nicholas Karimi) obsession, but it follows the line of least resistance rather than bringing out different textures.
There are plenty of resonances between 1950s Red Hook and the world of today. Immigration is again a hotly contested issue, while Eddie’s internal turmoil remains as compelling as ever. Yet the Theatre Royal’s revival lacks any sense of the contemporary. This is an engaging enough rendition of a play that retains its unsettling power, but it struggles to make the case for why Miller speaks to us now.