Sunday, April 07, 2013


WOH Productions at the Rose, Bankside

Titus was amongst the Shakespeare characters who first drew breath in this sacred space. Now we wait as black-clad actors warm up, in the prologue to this reworked Pirandello classic.

It's been adapted, pared down to an hour, by Anthony Khaseria and Manuela Ruggiero, who also directed this powerful, physical version.

Key scenes and most of the characters are retained, as is the central exploration of the nature of theatre and reality. But we miss the contrast between the Actors playing a scene and the Characters living it out.

An actor running late, a quick Muse of Fire, a powercut and the Six Characters arrive; at first the Director [Charlotte Cox] is annoyed, later intrigued and inspired by these lost souls, the Characters who can never die, bringing their back stories to the stage. And as the "real" actors return, she is not merely annoyed at a day's rehearsal lost, but deeply moved by the tragic events the Characters have shown so truthfully in her theatre.

Are we meant to be alienated by the less than fluent translation and the broken English of some of this international company ? Some of the most effective work here is wordless: the hats [and a script?] thrown into the ring at the start, the moments of dumb-show on the shores of what could be Dante's Limbo, the far side of the now famous Rose lake. And towards the end, the characters sinking to the floor with a sigh, and filing off at the end.

Strong performances from Francesca de Sica as the Stepdaughter, and especially Clive Moore as the Father, mouthpiece for the Characters, and for Pirandello himself.

"Life is full of endless absurdity," he says, and we may leave the Rose feeling a little confused, disturbed even. But at least no-one shouted "This is a mad-house!" as they did when the piece first opened in Rome nearly a century ago.

As Pirandello is poised to return to the National, it was good to see this seminal piece revived, part of International Month at the Rose Bankside.

photograph by Enrico Poli

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