Cover photo by Manuel Harlan
1. The state of things as they are or appear to be, rather than as one might wish them to be.
2. Something that is real
3. The state of being real
a. that which exists, independent of human awareness
b. the totality of facts as they are independent of human awareness
What is reality? Is your version of a story real? Theirs? These key questions are debated throughout this adaptation of Six Characters in Search of an Author by Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello. As part of the Perth International Arts Festival, UK’s Headlong Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre have brought to Perth a production that will make you think, laugh and cry. And question reality.
In a new version by Ben Power and Rupert Goold (who also directs) a documentary producer and her team are interrupted by six characters – Father, Mother, Step-daughter, Son, Boy and Girl. They are searching for an author to bring their story to life. Although protesting that she is not an author, the producer agrees to recreate the family’s story; and what follows is an eye opening tragi-comedy about fidelity, incest, paedophilia and families. Grim topics, and beyond those are the overarching question about what is real and what is not.
Goold and Power have updated Pirandello’s play for the 21st digital century and significantly changed the ending. A black out had the audience paused and ready to clap, until a character began the next scene and shed a completely new spin on the play. At one point, the Father says “Whatever is a reality today, whatever you touch and believe in and that seems real for you today, is going to be - like the reality of yesterday - an illusion tomorrow.” And it is very true of this play.
Whilst the cast as a cohesive whole are brilliant, the standout of the show is undoubtedly Ian McDiarmid, a stalwart of the English stage and international film (Star Wars). From the first time he walks on stage as the Father he captivates the audience with his smooth, velvety voice, commanding presence his version of reality.
The relationship between the Father figure and his Step Daughter (Denise Gough) is the key theme for the first half, as the Producer (played with conviction by Catherine McCormack) attempts to get to “the truth”. Gough effectively shrieks and rants across the stage, stereotyping the broken, abused young woman.
The mother (Eleanor David) is a little bit too much, with a somewhat hard to understand accent and over the top characterisations (although I expect this is purposeful). David’s singing voice is outstanding however, and is used to gut wrenching effect in the scene before interval.
The Octagon Theatre is the perfect venue for this production; with the set (designed by Miriam Buether) looking like the front of a lecture theatre. The part thrust stage brought the action closer, providing great sightlines and sound.
This is not a play for the fainthearted, or those who like their plays linear from start to finish. It is masterpiece of confusion and thought provoking themes and excellent Festival fare. Pirandello brilliantly encapsulates the play with a line by the Father; “We think we understand each other, but we never really do”. Brilliant.
Headlong Theatre presents
Six Characters In Search Of An Author
by Luigi Pirandello, in a new version by Rupert Goold and Ben Power
Directed by Rupert Goold
Venue: Octagon Theatre, UWA Crawley
Dates/Times: Sat 6 Feb - Thu 11 Feb @ 7.30pm
Matinee: Sun 7 Feb @ 1.00pm
Duration: 2hr 20min including interval
Tickets: $67.50 - $47.50