by Luigi Pirandello New version by Tanya Ronder, from a literal translation by Jane Fallowfield.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 6 November 2103.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 8 August.
Oddity with many delights.
If you like an oddity, this may be for you. A rare revival of one of Pirandello’s more `light-hearted’ creations, originally set in Sicily, given an Irish spin by translator Tanya Ronder and director Richard Eyre. On Anthony Ward’s sun-soaked plaster walls and wooden staging it’s as if Lorca’s Yerma had met J M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World in a Balkan village square, courtesy of Orlando Gough’s haunting, noticeably Slavic-influenced live music.
In Liolà, Pirandello, invented, unusually for him, a jolly piece, if one that cast dark shadows beneath the surface. Like Yerma, its central issue is the painful, indeed explosive, one of barrenness in a rural economy where wealth is tied to land, and land to inheritance and children.
Simone, a wealthy landowner, has married a woman younger than himself, the orphan Mita. But the couple have remained childless. What could be a tragic consequence in fact turns into tragi-comedy with the entrance of the eponymous, charmingly guilt-free Liolà who has already fathered three children by three different women.
As with Yerma (1934) and Lorca’s Blood Wedding (1932), this is a deeply matriarchal country for all that the two main characters are male. Around them in a Catholic-dominated society swirl a cacophony of females – mothers, daughters, cousins, nieces, most of them almond-pickers and workers for Simone.
Eyre, with Gough’s fabulously attuned music, that captures sardonic sarcasm as well as Mediterranean/Irish celebration, manages to make what is quite a slight piece constantly bubble thanks to Rory Keenan’s charismatic Liolà, a spry leprechaun if ever there was one.
Any girl might fall under his spell. And there are gorgeously filled cameos too from Rosaleen Linehan as Mita’s watchful aunt, James Hayes as Simone and a bravura turn from Eileen Walsh who sings Gough’s `That’s How It Is’ as if from some undiscovered Kurt Weill 1930s musical.
Indeed this Liolà is more musical than not since the heavy Irish accents sometimes preclude any deep appreciation of Ronder’s text. Gough’s music and Eyre’s staging ensure this curious cultural hybrid showers us with delight as well as, occasionally, inducing textual frustration.
Simone Palumbo: James Hayes.
Mita Palumbo: Lisa Dwyer Hogg.
Gesa: Rosaleen Linehan.
Liolà: Rory Keenan.
Ninfa: Charlotte Bradley.
Càrmina: Eileen Walsh.
Croce Azzara: Aisling O’Sullivan.
Tuzza Azzara: Jessica Regan.
Nela: Carla Langley.
Ciuzza: Niamh McGowan.
Luzza: Roxanna Nic Liam.
Tino: Felix Crutchley/Oliver Rosario.
Calicchio: Tommy Fletcher McMeekin/Frederick Neilson.
Palino: Joseph Stembridge-King/Joe Sibley.
Villagers: Anne Bird, Anthony Delaney, Jenny Fennessy, Gertrude Montgomery, David Summer.
Director: Richard Eyre.
Designer: Anthony Ward.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Rich Walsh.
Music: Orlando Gough.
Choreographer: Scarlett Mackmin.
Company Voice work: Kate Godfrey.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
First performance of this production of Liolà Lyttelton Theatre, London 7 August 2013.