first night

Six Characters in Search of an Author

Corinna Harrison ventures up to Grey for a production of Pirandello's absurdist metatheatrical play.

Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author is not an easy play to stage. It deals with very 'meta' themes and questions the notion of what is real and what is character, and along with a healthy dollop of philosophy, many would struggle to find the right balance. As such, whilst I commend Fortnight Theatre's ethos, I believe that staging this particular play in just two weeks may have been overly ambitious.

Although the actors warmed into their roles, the dialogue initially felt stilted and recited, and actors should be careful to try and make themselves sound more natural, despite the way in which the play is written. They should also be careful of posture and unnatural movement of their arms, as well as making sure their face can be seen at all times (particularly Mo Hafeez, playing The Son, whose hair was constantly over his face meaning we completely lost all facial expressions). This being said, all characters showed good engagement with the scenes, and of all The Characters, I was particularly impressed by The Boy, played by Henry Gould, due to his constant physical and facial commitment, despite not having a single line in the entire play. The consistent anguish on the face of The Mother, played by Emily McLean, was additionally impressive. I also felt that Sarah Macmillan, portraying The Stepdaughter, came into her own the moment she took to the stage to act her scene and explain how she had to tell the story of what happened in Madame Pace's shop. The same can be said for The Father, played by Korede Solomon, when he allowed a bit more emotion to come through in his explanation of the philosophical element, stating that "we have no other reality outside this illusion." The actors must also be commended for staying in character and improvising, despite long periods sat at the side, though they should be careful not to overact as they are vital to the more naturalistic elements of the play.

My main question for director Pénélope Hervouet would be why she chose to move away from one of the main themes of the play, namely the one-dimensional and stylised aspect of The Characters, who are trapped in a certain state as their play has never been finished or staged, meaning they cannot escape their role or reality. It would have been nice to see this more prominently portrayed, perhaps with makeup to show their sole emotion, and with slightly less naturalism from The Characters. I am also unsure what the staging represented and why there was a giant circle hanging centre-stage. The technical crew should also be careful of the length of the blackouts between acts, as it often led to confusion amongst audience members as to whether or not it had finished.

Despite these gripes, Fortnight Theatre and the production team should be commended for tackling a difficult play with such intricate themes, especially in such a short time period, and for succeeding in keeping me engaged and interested throughout.

17 February 2017

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
Our theatre that speaks for itself

DST is proud to be supported by: PwC