New York City

Mark Strong on life without props at ‘View From the Bridge’

December 9, 2015 By Mark Kennedy Associated Press
Mark Strong and Company in a scene from Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge," directed by Ivo van Hove at the Lyceum Theatre in New York. Jan Versweyveld/Philip Rinaldi Publicity via AP
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Mark Strong is making his Broadway debut this fall playing anti-hero Eddie Carbone in a revolutionary revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge.” How revolutionary? Strong doesn’t wear shoes.

Ivo Van Hove is known for stripping down a work to its essence and using minimal props, something he does with powerful results in this play about Italians in Brooklyn. The Associated Press asked Strong, whose film credits include “The Imitation Game” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the experience.

AP: How have you handled the lack of props?

Strong: I have to say, it’s incredibly liberating. There’s one moment when I’m asked, ‘What’s the time?’ And I reply, ‘Quarter nine.’ And I remember in rehearsals thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll have to have a watch here’ and said to Ivo, ‘What kind of watch?’ He said, ‘Why do you need a watch?’ I said, ‘How will they know I know what time it is?’ He said, ‘I’m not interested in how you know what the time is. I just want to know what the time is.’ And it’s incredibly liberating because suddenly you realize I say ‘Quarter nine’ but nobody puts their hands up and goes, ‘Hold on a second. How does he know that? There’s no clock in evidence.’

AP: What have you learned about audiences while doing it this way?

Strong: It’s made me realize you don’t need to hold their hands through everything. You don’t need a potted plant to signify you’re indoors and a tree to signify you’re outdoors, or a watch to signify you know what the time is … The audience accepts what you’re telling them. What then becomes important is what’s happening.

AP: What was it like walking into van Hove’s world?

Strong: On the first day of rehearsals, we looked at the model box and I remember thinking, ‘Where’s the furniture?’ Then I found out there was no furniture. Then we stood the play up and got into the space and started performing, and then I realized there were no props. A week into performances, he said, ‘I want you all to take off your shoes.’ I have to say, every step along the way I was thinking, ‘This is madness.’

AP: Was there any rebellion among the actors?

Strong: We fought him every step of the way! When he said the immigrants weren’t going to have Italian accents, everybody was appalled. We thought, ‘No, no. That can’t be.’ When the shoes came off, we were completely confused. So there were a lot of occasions where we were baffled, but we went with him. That was a sign of the respect we had for him and I think he’s chosen us because he knew we were the kind of actors who would go along with him.

AP: You have Italian ancestors on your father’s side. Did you tap into that?

Strong: It’s in there. It’s definitely in there somewhere. I mean, I got Eddie the moment I read him. And I’m absolutely positive that there’s something Italian in my blood that relates to him and allows me to play him the way that I do.

AP: Your Brooklyn accent is pretty spot-on. Do you like using accents?

Strong: I like doing accents. I feel that they take you out of yourself — they’re instant character. As a character actor, I feel they instantly transport you somewhere else. I’ve even played the head of the Jordanian secret service … I love anything that takes me away from me.


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