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Six Characters In Search Of An Author

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
First night audiences are a nightmare. Particularly when the play they’re watching concerns itself with the insular intricacies of theatre itself, the knowing guffaws come thick with indulgent recognition. Picture the scene, then, in Mark Thomson’s new production of Pirandello’s 1921 play within a play, which also revisits David Harrower’s new version first seen in London almost seven years ago.

Here we’re privy to elaborate rehearsal room rituals, as a troupe of archetypal actors enter the fray themselves in search of guidance. Upstaged by a family of misfits who seem to be wandering in a limbo of their own making, it’s not so much an author they’re seeking but closure from the kitchen-sink domestic drama they’re trapped in.

When Six Characters was first produced, Pirandello was kicking out at the glass ceiling of his art as well as pursuing a line of philosophical enquiry. Today, this looks like an envelope pushing pre-cursor of everything from devised and verbatim theatre to the attention-seeking flotsam and jetsam who make confessional reality TV such a freak-show. The fleeting vogue for putting ‘real’ people onstage a few years ago, be they mad, bad or glad, also springs to mind.

It’s a shame, then, that Thomson and Harrower prefer to keep this handsome looking co-production between the Lyceum, The Citizens and the National Theatre Of Scotland as a period piece. The Characters and the onstage Director may be without the technological equipment if not the exploitative will to succeed, but we have both. With a little more audacity, this could yet be a play for today.

The Herald, February 20th 2008

ends

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