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|A CurtainUp Review
Six Characters in Search of an Author
By Lizzie Loveridge
This is a central point - this belief we are one person. We are not. We are many people. We're one way with somebody, an entirely different way for somebody else. Yet we go on believing, in everything we do, that we are just being ourselves, the same person we always are. It is not true!
David Harrower has written a new adaptation of Luigi Pirandello's most famous play Six Characters in Search of an Author. The strong cast under Richard Jones' direction is premiering at the Young Vic. The play has moments of theatrical surrealism as characters question their actions and motivation. It is also full of surprises and uncertainties including leaving the audience at the interval with no clear indication that this is in fact the interval.
Before the play starts on an old cracked record are the strains of Pagliacchi and on a screen, a film of an old fashioned typewriter and the smoke of a cigarette as a writer tries for inspiration, his hands poised above the keys. Then a secretary (Catherine Malone) flits about, making ready, building the suspense to the moment when the cast and director enter. They arrive one by one, greeting each other with subtle differences: to one a cheek is proffered for kissing, to another a hand. It is all very stylised and a delight to watch. The "director" (Darrel d'Silva) takes charge and the cast settle down to watch a slide show introduction to the playwright Pirandello, his life and his family. Suddenly a knife slices through the screen and a family of six, a man a woman, two children, a young man and a girl, all clad in black, enter through the slit in the screen tearing away the paper.
The family story unfolds and we learn that t he mother's first husband (Stephen Boxer) has separated from his wife (Yolanda Vasquez) and her children. . They loose touch. He meets up with his stepdaughter (Leah Muller) in a "shop" where she has taken her mother's sewing. The sewing is unsatisfactory and the family are desperate for money, so at the suggestion of the "Madame" the girl agrees to entertain clients -- the first turning out to be herestranged stepfather.
As the story is explained to the "cast and directors," all family members gives their version of events. In the second act, the professional actors try to recreate the story but are halted by the family. There follows a debate about what is real with the family reminding everyone that they are just characters but incapable of change the way "real" people are. It is the most stimulating piece of theatre with more layers than an onion.
Stephen Boxer and Leah Muller stand out as the grey faced, grey haired and strained father and the overwrought and hideously over made up stepdaughter. There are excellent cameos from Lisa Sadovy as the elegant leading actress and Beverley Klein as the gossipy older actress. Darrel d'Silva has all the exasperation of an Italian director working with two sets of actors, those who are actors and those determined that their story should be told accurately.
To back up the second act's speeches about illusion and reality are sets which bring the "actors" into the auditorium to watch the development of the play. The play opens in a rehearsal room which changes to a theatre and finally to a stage within the stage. The Young Vic, usually round three sides of a square, has been completely redesigned with staged seating to give a different environment.