SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR
by Luigi Pirandello translated and adapted by François Regnault.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 7 February 2015.
Runs 1hr 55min No interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7511.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 February.
Bold, perceptive staging of an intriguing classic.
Throughout his life Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello grappled with the identity of appearance and reality. If he’d written thrillers, there’d have been no neat solutions establishing a reality disturbed temporarily by suppositions. Supposition and reality couldn’t be separated – ‘It is so, if you think so’, as one of his plays’ titles translates.
In this, his best-known play, he folds the artifice of theatre back on itself. Things may look different in our age of documentary and verbatim drama, when re-creating actuality is a familiar strand of drama. But people walking onstage and demanding their story be told in place of rehearsals for Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game was shocking in 1921, when stage artifice was expected to be artificial.
Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota’s bravura production contrasts the understated artifice of an opening with a bare stage and a cradle where a scene-painter sits high-up, as stage management knocks scenery into shape below, and the strictly-ordered illusion demanded by Alain Libolt’s director, announced with the importance of a high-court judge, immediately silencing a pianist and demanding precise detail.
There’s a double disruption to this apparent reality when a family suddenly appears, claiming to be characters who demand their story be told. It’s easy to see them as the unheard, demanding a place in theatre’s public spotlight. Yet they are not political refugees, rather characters whose family story demands sex and death be given the understanding and detail normally ignored by the theatre.
Demarcy-Mota is able, on a huge stage like the Barbican’s, to emphasise the struggle between the director’s ego, shaping the family’s story to theatrical effect, and his actors, whose space this is, resisting the characters’ insistence the professionals play the truth of their experience. At times the groups line-up either side of the stage and open conflict seems possible. But the characters have two advantages; surprise and passion in telling their story.
Sex and death are traditional dramatic qualities and they fascinate both the onstage theatre people and the audience, giving a sense of authenticity as what’s ‘theatrical’ and what’s ‘lifelike’ contrast with increasing complexity in this bold, perceptive staging.
The Father: Hugues Quester.
The Stepdaughter: Valérie Dashwood.
The Mother: Sarah Karbasnikoff.
The Son: Stéphane Krähenbühl.
The Teenager: Walter N’Guyen.
The Little Girl: Fantine Laurent/Celeste Duménil.
Madame Pace: Céline Carrère.
The Director: Alain Libolt.
The Actors: Charles-Roger Bour, Sandra Faure, Olivier Le Borgne, Gaëlle Guillou.
The Stage Manager: Gérald Maillet.
The Carpenter: Pascal Vuillemot.
The Assistant: Jauris Casanova.
Director: Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota.
Designer/Lighting: Yves Collet.
Music: Jefferson Lembeye.
Costume: Corinne Baudelot.
Make-up: Catherine Nicolas.
Assistant director: Christophe Lemaire.
Produced by Théâtre de la Ville-Paris. Co-produced by Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
Presented by the Barbican.
French artists at the Barbican supported by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni.