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August 3, 2014 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

A View from the Bridge

4 Stars

I was enormously excited to finally see a production of A View from the Bridge, having previously only read the play text. The opening night at Circa Theatre was a hoot. The staff hung up both Italian and American flags behind the bar, covered their tables in traditional red-and-white-checked cloths and even boasted about having both Italians and Americans in the crowd for the evening. I think they were trying to tell us something.

Gavin Rutherford – who bears a striking, but no doubt unintentional, resemblance to Cam from Modern Family – plays Italian–American dockworker Eddie Carbone. He works hard to raise his orphaned niece Catherine (Acushla–Tara Sutton) with his wife Beatrice (Jude Gibson) among the thriving but temperamental backdrop of working-class Brooklyn in the 1950s.

Sutton’s effervescent portrayal of the innocent Catherine is a pleasure to watch. I was almost sad to see it disappear into a panicked and confused heroine when the play took a dark turn. Many of Miller’s works have a tragic male protagonist. Think Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman and Joe Keller in All My Sons. Rutherford plays the role of Carbone with dignity, so that by the shocking end of the play, you as an audience member aren’t disgusted by Eddie’s actions; you feel sorry for him. The whole story is overseen by the narrator Alfieri (Chris Brougham), who sometimes steps out of his chorus role to provide legal advice to Eddie.

The cast lay the Italian–American accents on very thick. They are almost comical at the start of the play. I felt as if it was going to turn into a Honeymooners episode; however as the show progressed and the cast shook off the inevitable opening-night nerves, their accents became more natural, and you’re left captivated by the wonderful, albeit heart-breaking, story.

For a play that is considered a tragedy, I was surprised at how many times the audience laughed. A lot of the credit for that can be given to the brothers, Rodolpho and Marco. It was a pleasure to see them realised on stage. Paul Waggot plays an excellent Rodolpho. His delightfully charismatic performance of the sewing, singing and dancing blond Sicilian is everything you want the character to be: so charming, but just charming enough so his arrogance doesn’t lose the trust of the audience. His allure is balanced out by the straight-faced and sensible Marco, whose immense gratitude at being able to work in America finally breaks down when Eddie disrespects his brother.

The inclusion of dramatic music aimed at raising the tension or highlighting the solemnity of certain scenes was unnecessary. The director needs to let the script do the work and trust her audience to pick up on which scenes are tense and which are sad. The addition of music does not add to the mood; it only distracts from it.

Circa produces an annual Arthur Miller play because they prove extremely popular with their audience. However, there is more to it than simply numbers through the door. The beautifully crafted worlds of Miller’s plays are still a delight to watch, even 60 years after they were first produced. A View from the Bridge may not have the same eerie relevance as All My Sons or the political allegory of The Crucible, but it is still a brilliant play. It challenges any production to recreate the authenticity of the unique world that Miller has created, and Sue Wilson’s does just that.

A View from the Bridge runs at Circa Theatre until 23 August.


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