Monday, 25 January 2010

Times: Director has second go at censored gay kiss

Kiss and tell: Director Albert Marshall is about to stage Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, which was censored in the 1960s. Photo: Matthew Farrugia

A play that was censored in the 1960s because it featured a gay kiss will be staged next weekend by the same director who was audacious enough to attempt it when homosexuality was still a crime.

At the time, director Albert Marshall was told by the Manoel Theatre committee and the classification board that he would have to remove the kissing scene, which he considered to be "pivotal" to the script.

Refusing to do so, he requested a meeting with then Education Minister Paul Borg Olivier.

"But he just shrugged his shoulders and told us to leave because the country had more important issues to deal with," Mr Marshall said.

The classic play, A View from the Bridge, written by American playwright Arthur Miller, is currently going through an international revival and will be staged at the Manoel next weekend.

Speaking about his ordeal so many years ago, Mr Marshall recalled a "renaissance" period in Maltese literature and theatre at the time.

When the play was censored there was an uproar, similar to what is happening today, but "not as strong".

"We never staged it. But about six years later it was translated into Maltese and staged by Joe Friggieri... including the kiss."

This time there are "no such problems" Mr Marshall said, since the classification board gave it the green light.

He added that the play was chosen primarily because it dealt with illegal immigration, making it relevant to the problem facing Maltese society today.

The protagonist of the play is called Eddie, played by Manuel Cauchi, who is incestuously in love with his niece Catherine (Stephanie Buhagiar), despite being married to Beatrice (Ninette Micallef).

When two illegal immigrants from Sicily start to live with them, Catherine falls in love with the handsome Rodolpho (Edward Degaetano).

To prove Rodolpho is "not quite right", Eddie plays on his effeminate qualities, going as far as to kiss him on the lips to prove he is a homosexual.

Mr Marshall remembers being furious about the incident since he could not conceive how the play could work without this climactic scene.

The play was first staged in 1955 in America and caused Mr Miller to be accused of being "un-American".

Asked about the current controversy surrounding censor-ship, Mr Marshall stressed that theatre productions should be left alone and "especially not banned".

Last year the play Stitching was banned and disallowed by the government's classification board that had called it "an insult to human dignity from beginning to end". The court case is ongoing.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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