John Alastair and Orestes Sophocleous on playing longshoreman and Eddie's prejudice

John Alastair and Orestes Sophocleous on playing longshoreman and Eddie's prejudice

Friday, 10 April 2015

by Philippa Williams

'Back in that era you had to be a man's man' John and Orestes talk prejudices, learning two parts, and being in the cast.

Arriving at the Alhambra theatre to interview Orestes and John, I found out that I would be interviewing them both separately as they were having understudy rehearsals that day. I was told that John would be busy until much later as he is the understudy for the lead Eddie Carbone. I was taken up to the dressing room first to interview Orestes, who is the understudy for Marco. We were joined once or twice by Ben Woodhall and his singing, then a couple of hours later when John was finished with his rehearsals, he was able to sit down for his interview.

What research did you both do for your main and understudy parts?
It’s hard, I mean a lot of the research we did for Eddie was done in rehearsals. We had a week of sitting around a table reading the play and talking about the characters.

OS: I tried to find as much information and now it’s so easy because you have YouTube and you don't need to go looking in books, you can look for any footage and find it online so I found loads of it. Then I found a lot of information about Italian American immigrants from the 1900s till now from loads of movies about Italian Americans.

What are the differences between your two characters?
OA: So Louis is a longshore man, he is this guy who works very hard all day and because they used to live in these really poor slums, I feel like after he finishes work he always wants to go out. If you see him in the play he always goes bowling with Mike so no family, no nothing, he just wants to escape, relax and enjoy his time with his friends and have a beer. 

Now Marco, on the other hand, is a very different character, Marco is an immigrant but he is an immigrant for a reason, he needs to help his family to survive. So if Louis is the guy who wants to get away from his home, Marco is the guy who tries to go back and everything he does is linked to that. He will never go out to have a beer or eat, he will never spend his money, he sends everything back to his family.

How does Miller’s work compare with other writers?
JA: He is kind of a modern day Shakespeare really I suppose... He worked in Brooklyn on the docks for a short period of time so he completely got the poor working man's side of things as well, so the language of the play is terrifically poetic and sometimes it just flows itself.

OS: He is very unique, Miller is all about the American dream, yeah, all his plays have something to do with what the American dream is and how people are so keen to acquire that dream, yet sometimes they get lost in that cause. He speaks about struggle, and although he writes about these dreams, he speaks about how they can shatter because of other forces in life.

Do you think your character would have agreed with Eddie’s prejudices?
JA: He certainly would have shared in the prejudice that there is towards the immigrants. I've spent a lot of my own time in a very working-class man's world and there are prejudices, whether they be racial or sexual prejudices, they are there and they are very prevalent... a lot of it is just banter, inappropriate banter by today's standards but its just banter all the same. Back then, the Italian immigrants were the threat taking people’s jobs.

OS: Back in that era you had to be a man's man, you know, girls were seen as belonging in the kitchen and on the sewing machine. So all these guys, in order to survive in this working and social environment, they had to be tough and had to prove that they are a man to work. So yeah, they sort of share the same idea about Rodolpho, that he is strange, but I don't think they would go as far as Eddie goes.

How was it to learn two parts?
JA: Strange actually because I spent most of the rehearsal period trying to get on top of Eddie and not thinking too much about Mike, which was probably wrong but Eddie is such a colossal sort of part that I just thought I had to try nail that, so Mike came sort of late on, unfortunately. I'm hoping, and it sounds strange, but I'm hoping I don't have to do it because it’s a massive part. I think if I had to go on of course I would go on, I wouldn't want the show to be cancelled, but I don't think I would do it the justice that it deserves that the audience deserves. It's just a shame on a production like this which is run on a very limited budget inevitably the understudy rehearsals are so limited its just a very difficult thing to do.

OS: For me, it is sort of natural, an actor has to be able to do a lot of things simultaneously. I have been doing repertoire for four years so in my early days on stage back in Cyprus, I was at the National Theatre and we would perform in the night, and then in the morning, we would rehearse for another part. It’s something I've done before, it’s quite interesting because you have to have a lot of focus.

What have all the cast been like together?
JA: Terrible. It’s been an awful atmosphere, can't wait to leave each other behind. No it has all been without problem, they have all been lovely and we have not lived out of each other's pockets the whole time, no problems, it’s been great. It’s a shame it’s such a short run, to be honest, they are such lovely people and AMAZING actors, so it’s an education as well so that's good.

A View from the Bridge opened at Theatre Royal, Nottingham, where it ran from 4 to 7 March 2015. It then toured to Cheltenham, Darlington, Wolverhampton, Bradford, Coventry and Edinburgh, where it concluded on 2 May.