On Thursday, the 12th of March, we visited The Theatre Royal Haymarket to watch a performance called On the Waterfront, about corruption and violence.On the Waterfront recounts the gritty story of ex-boxer Terry Molloy (Simon Merrells) who works on the New Jersey docks.
Taking one too many dives in his career, Molloy is forced out of prize fighting and finds himself involved in the seedy world of organised crime. Because of Mob Boss Johnny Friendly (Steven Berkoff), Terry is suddenly implicated in a grisly murder. Terry has some serious thinking to do when he considers escaping his life on the waterfront.The set was empty with a silhouette outline of the statue of liberty, but instead of holding the torch, a hook symbolising the workers. They used a raked stage for creating levels, for the only props were 12 chairs and some personal props for each character.
The hooks were the only other props which are symbolic for the workers and they used a minimalistic set but used with great affect conveyed by lighting and small props.I found most engaging in the narrative of the relationship between Johnny and Terry. Johnny is patronizing towards Terry, he mocks him, and doesn’t take him seriously. Terry here is the victim. There is this constant idea through the play, of telling the truth and getting hurt. Another relationship I found engaging was the love affair between Terry and Edie. This was a good counterpoint to the crime and violence and gives the piece some dramatic tension.
I felt a lot of sympathy for Terry as he is surrounded by all this dishonest and cruelty; he is the victim in the play and is constantly mocked and abused.A performance I enjoyed most in the play was Terry Malloy, played by Simon Merrells; his character was captivating and communicates in three distinct personalities which were towards Edie coming across as charming and polite, towards Charlie his brother, which was caring and gentle, and to Johnny Friendly and the mob, playing tough without showing any weakness. He also gave good stage presence and the audiences was able to detect he was an outsider as he always stood further away from the mob which symbolizes he doesn’t agree with the mob and does not want to be a part of them.This was shown in a scene where the mob are all together in their I also found Steven Berkoff’s performance quite effective as he uses his body a lot, which is how he conveys to be mocking towards Terry. He gave a very believable and convincing role as Johnny Friendly.
He used exaggerated movements and unpredictable behaviour bringing a lot personality to his character.The lighting was very interesting, without any props, the lighting gives the stage its set. What I found most interesting was the car scene, they used the lighting to shape the car and used chairs for seating, they also used lighting for pathways and to dramatise the mood.
The lighting was constantly on the move, different colours and tones were used to emphasize scenes. It also set the time of day in the backdrop behind the silhouette outline of the statue of liberty as well as setting the atmosphere and place. The audience was easily able to identify different locations and atmospheres so there was no need for the set to be filled with props or backdrops.AudienceLighting showing pathwaysThe music was chosen to set the mood of the 50s, Jazz and blues setting a strong sense of time and place. The music also gave us suspense and caught the audience’s attention in some of the scenes. Drum beats were also used in dramatic scenes such as murder scenes to build tension.
The slow motion was used to show the distance between the actors, which I found very effective. I found the 12 actors forming the ensemble successful as they morphed themselves into different characters such as the birds, and was able to differentiate their characters also doubling from being Dockworkers by wearing beanies, to the mob, by wearing long coats and fedora hats. The slow motion also created a very cinematic experience which the actors conveyed very well as well as using a lot of mimeI found the whole play a huge success as the acting was very expressionistic but very believable. It was a famous book written by Budd Schulberg and turned into an even more celebrated film starring Marlon Brando in 1954 winning 8 Oscars.
It was risky putting it on stage as a minimalistic piece but had great reviews.