A satisfying and well-crafted production that falls short of making a splash.
Maiah Stewardson as Catherine and Antoine Jelk as Rodolpho. Photo: Kate Pardey.
A View from the Bridge is a 1950s play written by Arthur Miller that over the decades has become a classic. State Theatre Company South Australia has brought together a strong creative team to return the play to the stage. The story follows an Italian family: wife, husband and youthful niece who welcome their illegally immigrated cousins to their home in America. The environment creates a platform for Miller to craft a tragedy with sparks of humour. The story explores what happens when we hold on to our children rather than letting them become adults. Every production element is well crafted but it doesn’t push the show beyond being just satisfying.
In previous State Theatre Company seasons, contemporary playwrights have adapted classic plays. The View from the Bridge’s script is unedited. This in part demonstrates Miller’s capacity to make timeless works but also generates the question whether there is something that should have been changed in the script. The narration in the play is mostly unnecessary as the scenes are effective on their own. The text explores distrust through the husband’s unwillingness to trust the man his niece falls in love with. The lack of trust destroys all his good relationships very slowly, making the plot’s conclusion predictable. The play’s pacing creates space for contemplation on how the wife and niece are constantly fighting against the husband’s control, however, the perspective that the niece has the right to make her own choices is hardly challenging today. It makes it hard not to wonder what could’ve been if these themes were tackled by a contemporary playwright. Our current thinking could have been affirmed but also challenged to grow more.
For the set, a wooden dock protruding from the stage creates the main playing space. At the back of the stage, ropes hanging from the ceiling connecting with the tops of square block scaffolds. The design immediately provides a sense of location – a suburb near the docks. As the production commences, the scaffolding is lowered so every box is touching the ground. The action feels unnecessary. It’s slow and unconnected to the play, creating a dull show-off moment. After that, the set remains still until the climax, when the movement adds to the tension and chaos that unfurls in front of it. The climax shows that the creative team understand how to manipulate the set to complement the action; however, it’s a shame they didn’t look for opportunities to use their understanding more.
The lighting and sound design show a good sense of creative control, supporting the play’s steady but slow pace without drawing attention to itself. Like the set, everything changes in the climax. The play’s pacing turns into a racehorse and with it the lights cast deliberate spots of light to form purposeful darkness. The sound follows suit and a new emotional level is hit.
Being set in America with Italian immigrants, the play demands that the actors maintain strong accents throughout the play. The cast are impeccable with every line imbued with just the right pronunciation. No one member of the cast stands out above the rest, leaving the focus on the characters and their story. However, some dialogue sometimes feels unnatural. Terse conversation rockets to an outburst in just one line and is then met by silence. This occurs a couple of times in the play by different actors, suggesting it’s a performance choice by the director. It’s a small choice that for a moment disturbs the rhythm of the play but doesn’t derail it.
State Theatre Company South Australia’s A View from the Bridge has all the right ingredients to be a success. There are few choices that taint the show but don’t negatively impact the overall experience. The production is satisfying but fails to develop a lasting impact.
3.5 stars out of 5 ★★★☆
A View from the Bridge
State Theatre Company South Australia
Director: Kate Champion
Set Designer: Victoria Lamb
Costume Designer: Enken Hagge
Lighting Designer: Chris Petridis
Composer & Sound Designer: Jason Sweeney
Accent Coach: Jennifer Innes
Choreographer: Martin Hughes
Assistant Director: Clara Solly-Slade
Lighting Design Secondment: Meg Wilson
Cast includes Brett Archer, Bill Allert, Elena Carapetis, Antoine Jelk, Chris Asimos, Dale March, Mark Saturno and Maiah Stewardson
12 July-30 August 2019