Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

19/07/2014 - 23/08/2014

Production Details


The great Arthur Miller confronts the American dream in this passionate tale of love, family, loyalty and revenge. 

Italian American dockworker, Eddie Carbone,  lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Beatrice and his orphaned niece Catherine.  Eddie works, looks after his family and hopes for a better future for Catherine. When Beatrice’s Sicilian cousins enter the country illegally he welcomes them into his home. But when one of them falls for his beautiful niece, Eddie’s jealous mistrust drives him to commit the ultimate betrayal.

Miller believed that “the theatre is above all else an instrument of passion” and in this Eddie is given full rein. 

Susan Wilson has great pleasure in directing her fifth Miller play. Previously Death of a Salesman, The Price, All my Sons and Broken Glass, all of which enjoyed successful seasons at Circa Theatre. 

The talented cast for this production includes Jude Gibson, Christopher Brougham, Acushla-Tara Sutton, Paul Waggott, Alex Greig, and playing the legendary role of Eddie Carbone is Gavin Rutherford. Also participating are the third year drama students from Whitireia Stage and Screen. 

First written as a one act play, A View from the Bridge, opened on Broadway in 1955 where it enjoyed a short run. But it was when Miller re-wrote it as two acts that it became the highly acclaimed work that we know today. The premiere was in London’s West End under the direction of Peter Brook in 1956. 

One of Arthur Miller’s greatest plays, A View from the Bridge is a powerful and profoundly moving work.

“This is a play that anyone who really loves great theatre should not miss” —Stage Happenings 

Performance Times:  Tues & Wed 6.30pm, Thurs to Sat 8pm, Sunday 4pm
Tickets:  $25 – $46 
$25 SPECIALS – Friday 18th July & Sunday 20th July 
After show Q & A 22nd July 
Bookings: (04) 801 7992 www.circa.co.nz 
Pre-show dinner available at Encore – phone 801 7996

Alfieri:  Christopher Brougham 
Eddie:  Gavin Rutherford 
Catherine:  Acushla-Tara Sutton 
Beatrice:  Jude Gibson 
Marco:  Alex Greig 
Rodolpho:  Paul Waggott 

Other roles are played by Eric Gardiner and Whitireia Stage and Screen Students: Victoria Seymour, Aaron Murtagh, Hugh David Philip, Cameron Mercer, Jonny T. Marshall, Brandt Feeney. 

Set Design:  John Hodgkins 
Lighting Design:  Marcus McShane 
Costume Design:  Sheila Horton 

Original Score:  Michael Nicholas Williams 

Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner 
Assistant Stage Manager:  Victoria Seymour 
Technical Operator:  Michael Duggan 
Wardrobe Assistant:  Kathryn Horton 
Fight Arranger:  Richard Dey 
Set Construction:  Iain Cooper, John Hodgkins 
Set Finishing / painting:  Therese Eberhard 
Pack-in/Lighting Crew:  Iain Cooper, Sam Banks, Daniel Petrovich, Adam Walker, Blair Ryan, Lucy Muir, Antony Goodin, Anneliese Mudge, Rowan McShane 
Publicity:  Colleen McColl 
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller – Kraftwork  
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn 
Box Office:  Linda Wilson 
Pre-production images/video:  Christopher Brougham
Photography Stephen A’Court 

Sterling acting in opera-like drama

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 22nd Jul 2014

It comes as no surprise to learn that A View from the Bridge has been made into an opera twice and that Arthur Miller himself wrote the libretto for the 1999 version.

The dramatic final scene of the play has all the ingredients except music of a thrilling operatic finale. Susan Wilson’s sturdy production opens and closes with an ominous drum beat as well as using music a few times to underscore  the drama in certain scenes in this tragedy set in the tight-knit tenement community of Italian New Yorkers and their inflexible code of family honour.

It is surprising, however, to realise that when Miller re-wrote his poorly received one act play (a mixture of prose and poetry) and made it a two act play without poetry, which was first performed in England in 1956, that the West End theatre had to be turned into a private club to avoid the powers of censorship of the Lord Chamberlain who had banned it. Today no one would turn a hair.

At the heart of the play is Eddie Carbone, a forty year-old longshoreman who lives with his wife Beatrice (Jude Gibson) and Beatrice’s orphaned niece Catherine (Acushla-Tara Sutton). Two young cousins of Beatrice, Marco (Alex Greig) and Rodolpho (Paul Waggott), arrive illegally from Italy to work on the wharves.

The growing attachment between Catherine and Rodolpho releases within the inarticulate Eddie his emotional attachment to his niece that he cannot comprehend or control. The only person he can express his fears to is a local lawyer, Alfieri (Christopher Brougham), who also acts as a chorus to the play which allows the playwright to both distance the action as well as focus it for the audience.

It is in the scenes with Alfieri that Gavin Rutherford’s sterling performance as Eddie really takes flight. As he rubs his hands over his thinning hair as if to prevent his head from bursting, he repeats with an ox-like stubbornness “He ain’t right” referring to the light-hearted Rodolpho who represents a masculinity that is totally alien to Eddie. Alfieri can only watch the inevitable tragedy unfold.


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The corrosive effects of passions denied

Review by John Smythe 21st Jul 2014

It is astounding to think that just 58 years ago Britain’s Lord Chamberlain banned public performances of the Peter Brook-directed world premiere of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge (revised from a one-act verse play that had opened in 1955).

What realities of human existence did he think the populace needed to be protected from? The phenomenon of a sexually neglected wife? An uncle’s inappropriate feelings towards his niece? The implication that someone was homosexual? Oh, right, of course [spoiler alert!]: man kisses man live on stage (albeit as a provocative act of aggression)! Mass corruption will surely ensue!

A Guardian account (written in 2003) tells us, “To evade his censorship, a cabal of hotshot producers turned the Comedy Theatre into a club and mounted the play as the first of a season of censored works – all Broadway hits that dealt with homosexuality.”*

Circa Theatre always includes modern classics in its annual line-ups and this is the fifth Arthur Miller play Susan Wilson has directed for Circa, the others being Broken Glass (1996), Death of a Salesman (2006), All My Sons (2012), and The Price (2013): an exemplary track record!

The title of this one – A View From The Bridge – resonates in a number of ways. Alfieri, an avuncular lawyer with many clients from Red Hook, “the slum that faces the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge”, narrates the tale in retrospect, so we may take it as his view, not so much looking down on them as offering an overview. (Apparently a lawyer did tell Miller a real story that spawned the idea for the play.)

The other main male characters are longshoremen, “working the docks from Brooklyn Bridge to the breakwater where the open sea begins.” It is erratic and financially precarious piece work, which Eddie Carbone has stuck at for 20 years to provide for his wife Beatrice and orphaned niece Catherine, now 18. Given he is the would-be ‘master of the ship’ at home with an increasingly mutinous crew, it is also his ‘view from the bridge’ that the play reveals.  

The bridge motif also denotes the transition of immigrants (in this case illegal, dubbed ‘submarines’) from the old country – Italy and its autonomous region Sicily, with a lore of its own – to the ‘new world’. And for the young and aspirational, the delights of Manhattan may also be viewed from the bridge.

John Hodgkins’ impressive set, astutely lit by Marcus McShane, offers a glimpse of the bridge against the skyline, so our view of the Carbone’s flat, the street and Alfieri’s office, is from under the bridge (giving us all a ‘submarine’ view?). The ‘memory play’ convention allows for such details as doors to be dispensed with; those who live in the flat just walk on in while visitors stand at the imagined front door and, rather strangely, their knocking is heard without their raising a hand.

An original score by Michael Nicholas Williams sets the moods augments the action to good effect although my companions do comment afterwards they didn’t want to be told how to feel when the drama reached its climax.  

The costumes designed by Sheila Horton eloquently capture the time and place, and the nature and status of the neighbourhood and characters, with some poetic licence taken for the pale and pristine clothing of higher status ‘outsiders’.

Compared to the practicality of the workers’ clothes, the elegant outfit Catherine – Eddie’s niece – first appears in, “all dressed up … like one of them girls that went to college,” and the struggle Eddie has between admiring it and fearing the consequences, especially with Beatrice’s cousins from Sicily due any minute, pretty well sets the agenda for the conflicts to come, not least when the stylish and single Rodolpho has earned enough to buy snappy clothes too.  

In the early 1950s Miller had developed a screenplay, The Hook, with Elia Kazan about corruption on the New York docks. It was unproduced (Kazan went on to make On The Waterfront instead, with another writer) but Miller’s interest in the territory was piqued. While such things as an ‘accident’ involving a consignment of whiskey do play their part, it is the corruption of the human spirit through the corrosive effects of passions denied – of a failure to recognise the truth and take responsibility for it – that Miller explores in A View From The Bridge.  

Towards the end of Act One, Alfieri – played with a calm and detached objectivity by Christopher Brougham – tells us “I could see every step coming, step after step, like a dark figure walking down a hall toward a certain door.” The entertainment value is not to be found in the surprise of what happens, then, but rather in being witness to how it happens, inevitably. Pride, honour and reputation are all at stake as the passions simmer and rise to boiling point. 

Legend has it Millar was dismayed at the inability of auditioning English actors to generate the passions that drive his Sicilian and Italian American characters. Happily Wilson’s team consulted with Italian Wellingtonians (Massimo Tolve and Antonio DeMartino) and it has paid off handsomely.

Everything depends on our being convinced that Eddie Carbone is a hard-working loving husband and uncle – truly loved by his wife and niece – whose inability to acknowledge and understand the passions that curdle his guts, let alone take responsibility for them, set the course for the tragic outcome. Gavin Rutherford embodies the role utterly in a profoundly complex and riveting performance.

The role of loving wife of Eddie and aunt of Catherine, and loyal cousin of the ‘submarine’ brothers Marco and Rodolpho, is fully owned by Jude Gibson as she expertly draws us into her unspoken concerns.

Acushla-Tara Sutton captures beautifully the innocent affection, fresh optimism and growing independence of Catherine’s bourgeoning womanhood (think Natalie Wood’s Judy in Rebel Without A Cause, 1955). There is great detail in her performance and her emotional truth is profound.

As Rodolpho, the blonde Sicilian and fancy-free younger brother of Marco, given to singing, sewing and cooking, Paul Waggott is every bit the delight he needs to be (who knew he was such a good singer?). While we share Catherine’s faith in his masculinity and integrity, we can also understand why he is misconstrued from Eddie’s increasingly warped perspective. And of course, in this day and age, we see his ignorance with a much more knowing awareness that the original audience had.

Marco, with a wife and children back home, is the older, more serious, responsible brother. Alex Greig personifies his qualities strongly, not least when his tightly coiled passions are released in accordance with Sicilian lore.  

The script lists 15 characters plus ‘neighbours’ in the cast list and 11 of them are named, but here there are just the six named characters. ‘Other roles’ are played by Eric Gardiner (also the Stage Manager) and Whitireia Stage and Screen Students Victoria Seymour, Aaron Murtagh, Hugh David Philip, Cameron Mercer, Jonny T. Marshall and Brandt Feeney with varying degrees of competence, as judged by professional standards. The most distracting aspect is where actors are clearly too young for their parts.

A View From The Bridge may not have the allegorical resonance of Death of a Salesman, All My Sons and The Crucible. If he wrote it now Miller may not spoon-feed us quite so much with Alfieri’s editorial commentary. But as a ‘passion play’ Italian-American style, it challenges its actors, director and designers to bring their top game to stage, and this company steps up in no uncertain terms.  
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*Wikipedia notes the theatre (now renamed the Harold Pinter Theatre) was re-established as the New Watergate Club in 1956. “The outdated Theatres Act 1843 still required scripts to be submitted for approval by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. Formation of the club allowed plays that had been banned due to language or subject matter to be performed under ‘club’ conditions.”
   The other plays “produced in this way included the UK premières of … Robert Anderson’s Tea and Sympathy and Tennessee Williams’ Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. The law was not revoked until 1968, but in the late 1950s there was a loosening of conditions in theatre censorship, the club was dissolved and Peter Shaffer’s Five Finger Exercise premièred to a public audience.


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