By David Ferrier
Six Characters in Search of an author was the most fun I’ve ever had at the theatre. A bold claim but I think others will share my view because it’s combination of a riveting story, excellent use of multimedia and amazing performances make it an utterly satisfying experience.
The play, originally written in 1920 by Italian Luigi Pirandello has been given a contemporary facelift by Ben Power and West End wunderkind Rupert Goold. The best way to describe the new version is that it is the stage equivalent of the film Adaptation.
The play starts with a group of filmmakers along with an executive producer looking over the footage of the drama-documentary they’re making about a clinic in Denmark that offers assisted suicide. While discussing how they can get more of a ‘human’ element in the film, six characters walk in and tell the group they are in search of an author. Their stories are revealed and towards the latter part of the play layers of reality are slowly removed as the Producer (Catherine McCormack) becomes more and more involved in the characters story. Without giving too much away, it includes a scene where a writer and a producer are talking about staging the new adaptation of Six Characters along with the possibility of international touring and a scene of Pirandello writing the play we were watching.
An ingredient of the play’s succuss is its incredible use of multimedia. Video projection, the subtle use of microphones on the actors that echoed small bits of dialogue at precise moments and brilliant music by composer Adam Cork that swelled during the heightened moments of drama made the show all the more engaging.
The show would have fallen flat on its face of course had it not been for the wonderful performances. Everyone was stunning, their performances just so satisfying and absorbing that you really forget you are only a few meters away from these people playing on stage. Ian McDiarmid as the Father and Martin Ledwith as The Exec and Mr Pace are of particular note, mainly because their characters had the most interesting lines and I believe the most ‘fun’ on stage.
Six Characters is an intellectually ambitious play that explores themes of what we perceive as reality and notions of ‘self.’ It’s hard to imagine the original version of the play was written in 1920 because it is so contemporary and post modern even by today’s standards. It’s not too hard to believe that when it premiered in Rome in 1921, it sparked riots.
All I can say is go and see it while you can, it’s a remarkable piece of contemporary theatre with smart, punchy dialogue that is ridiculously entertaining from beginning to final curtain..and if you’ve seen it I bet you’re already waiting for the DVD.