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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Six Characters in Search of an Author
Six Characters in Search of an Author
Published on Saturday, 03 August 2013

2 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
31 Jul, 1-17 Aug, 8:45pm-9:45pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

I confess: I’d never even heard of Six Characters In Search Of An Author before now, still less seen it performed. Cambridge University ADC offer a free-spirited take on Luigi Pirandello’s 1921 script, filled with Fringe-related in-jokes and modernised asides. It’s an ambitious production with a large and capable cast, but the confusion inherent in Pirandello’s meta-theatrical plot too often leaches out into the production.

The concept behind Six Characters is simple enough. In the middle of a fraught dress rehearsal, six characters appear unbidden on the stage – ghosts from an unwritten work, desperate to have their full story told. The student company from Cambridge make the most of their theatrical setting, joyfully mixing in self-obsessed leading actors, nonsensical notes from the director, and the occasional dig at reviewers too. I suspect you need to have been in a student theatre company to fully appreciate it all, but that description admittedly does cover a fair proportion of the population of Edinburgh right now.

Amidst all the humour, though, the six characters’ story didn’t quite have room to grow, and the hints of darkness sprinkled through the script felt a little underplayed. In a wonderful touch, the revelatory final speech is handed to a techie (well, an actor playing a techie) and although he delivered it with a tender sense of horrified confusion, he hadn’t had enough help setting up the tragedy of the crux scene. The more intellectual of Pirandello’s themes got a little lost too – there’s something interesting about the clarity which exists within a play, that’s unknown to us in real life – although, to be fair, the fault for that may well lie with the playwright.

The production neatly uses sound to highlight the characters’ stories, but the choice of music was sometimes perplexing. The intrusive tracks often distracted from, rather than enhancing, the most important monologues. And I’m sorry to say that there were a handful of basic directorial mistakes on display, such as the “Father’s” tendency to deliver important lines while turned away from the audience, or the way some of the actors occasionally wander into the darkness.

All that said, there were some worthy ideas here: the imagery in the second act is beautiful, somehow transforming the unforgiving stage into a peaceful but portentous garden, and the unconventional curtain-call is genuinely disconcerting in a way that many productions attempt but few actually achieve. So Cambridge Uni ADC have the makings of an entertaining and thought-provoking play; but sadly, I think their production is still in search of its mojo.

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