Six Characters in Search of an Author

Wed 16th – Sat 19th October 2013

reviews

Nicola Papastavrou Brooks

at 09:17 on 17th Oct 2013

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Six Characters in Search of an Author was an incredibly ambitious play by an obviously dedicated team. Although I felt as though it didn’t compensate for the intentionally slightly confusing nature of the plot, it definitely raised a lot of interesting questions.

It is the story of an ADC theatrical production whose rehearsal is hijacked by six tragic characters from a discarded play. The action merges their story and the reaction of the crew who they have convinced to perform it. As it descends deeper into tragedy, the actors find that the line between fact and fiction becomes increasingly blurred.

Saul Boyer as the utterly single minded and self-important director was both comic and jarring at different times. His “I am god” attitude was darkly funny and set off the rest of the characters. In fact the presence of a theatrical team for who the tragedy was just fictional made it more hard-hitting, although the transitions between “theatre” and “tragedy” frequently seemed contrived.

Of the tragic cast, Victoria Fell made the greatest impression as the daughter. She was exceptionally melodramatic, but didn’t get in the other actors’ way when the action was elsewhere. Overall the tragedy section was disturbing. Although dramatic, it was easy to see why these characters' original author had abandoned them, possibly in favour of something saner. That said, the darkness was necessary for the tortured nature of the plot, conveying the anguish felt by those trapped in a hellish story, unable to make themselves understood.

This show questions the very nature of fiction, of what happens to the story when the book is closed, and to what extent are the actor and character linked. Apart from a slow section in the middle where it felt like the drama was just repeating itself, the audience’s attention was gripped, partly because if you lost concentration you lost track of what was even happening, but also because it was fascinating. However I found the ending insufficient for the build-up, leaving too much to the imagination and resolving too little.

Overall this show was possibly overambitious for a university production, although there was certainly a lot to discuss. I left the theatre confused and disturbed as well as intellectually interested. This is not light entertainment; there is a lot to get your teeth into. Maybe the production team should remember that the audience don’t know the story as well as they do.

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Rachel Christie

at 12:09 on 23rd Oct 2013

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The build-up to Six Characters in Search of an Author was handled beautifully. Waiting in the bar before entering the auditorium, the audience saw the stage manager with her clipboard and microphone running around, checking with the people on the doors, having in depth discussions – preparing everything, or so we believed, for that night’s performance. When said stage manager (a wonderfully emotional Tania Clarke) then came running down the stairs to shout at a hapless techie (Hugh Stubbins) there was a delicious moment of confusion among the audience – has the play begun? Are these people really actors, or are we genuinely witnessing an argument?

The play had of course really begun, and already the audience were beginning to feel slightly disorientated. As the play developed, these feelings of confusion were continuously heightened, often to the point of complete bewilderment.

The play involved two different sets of characters – one an ADC group attempting to rehearse their play, the other a set of ‘Characters’ who had been rejected by their author and now needed somebody new to tell their tale. The ‘Characters’ invade the ADC rehearsal, demanding that their tale be told – and so it is. The confusion of the performance arose from the completely piecemeal way in which their story was presented to the audience. If our attentions had not been so utterly taken up with trying to work out the relationships between the ‘Characters’, I am certain the play would have achieved a much greater poignancy. Thank Heavens, then, for the self-confident director of the ADC group (a sublime Saul Boyer) who attempted to act as a kind of conductor for their tale, encouraging each ‘Character’ to give just a little more desperately needed information, and often imposing what little order the play contained. Boyer played his part to near perfection, managing to be both arrogant and dismissive when people disagreed with his views, yet also managing to get the most out of every tense moment.

Putting the overly confusing plot aside, the rest of the play was admirably preformed. The limited stage space was used to excellent effect, and Sam Rayner and Nisha Emich provided much required comic relief as the bickering lead actor and actress of the ADC Company. In the play’s more lucid moments, the ‘Characters’ also asked some thought-provoking and compelling questions of the audience; referencing the importance of theatre, the effect watching the same events from different character’s points of view can have, and successfully imparting a terrifying sense of the inevitability of certain tragic events.

The one other disappointing feature of this performance was the ending. The momentum that the play had built up by this point was impressive, but it meant that the finale was over too quickly; it felt rushed, and the audience didn’t have enough time to register the tragedy that was happening on stage in order to have a full reaction to it.

This ambitious group of actors performed an incredibly ambitious play to an excellent standard – it was let down only by the incoherence of the plot line, and that they often moved through complex points of plot too fast for the audience to keep up with them. This did not detract, however, from the quality of performance, or from the fact that every audience member will certainly have gone home with new questions to ponder.

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