A very brief note about my experience of Six Characters in Search of An Author which has been programmed as a part of The 2010 Sydney Festival. Luigi Pirandello’s play written in 1921- arguably one of the great classic texts in the Western Canon- is a self-reflexive examination on the creation of theatre, character and life and a comment on the shifting sands of reality. In this version, by Rupert Goold and Ben Power- the framing of the production has shifted to that of a TV station which produces documentaries- and is under deadline to find an ending to a documentary on a child who is about to euthenased. It has been delivered to us with a string of raving snippets from UK reviews- in one of the trickiest of venues- The York Theatre at The Seymour Centre.

For those who know the story- the re-imagining rattles along and the sport becomes the finding of the parallels between the original and the re-imagined. (A fine preoccupation for a play with its history.) For those who don’t- it may seem to be a little confused or oversaturated.

This is a very clever piece of programming-especially for Festival Goers who saw Ostenmeier’s Hamlet- the links to the text of Hamlet are present and even a comment on festival programming and touring… appropriately self-referential.

There were flickering moments in the first half that sparked interest- the operatic scream on screen for the mother as she walks in on her husband with her daughter in the room above Mr Pace’s Hat shop. But on the whole it was rather forced and somewhat piecemeal in performances- in particular some of the “characters” were overly characatured (as opposed to finely drawn characters- which is what the authentic confusion between reality and imagination is hinged)- and the documentary makers seemed more cliched than real… SO the even playing field between the true and the imagined was at all times severly lop-sided. Particulary irritating was the relocation to the TV station- because this would really work best and in the spirit of Pirandello’s text if this was a TV show which was then interrupted by characters. But we are in the theatre. Inescapably in our seats.

Most disappointing in the second act was that the cast/crew did not bother to re-shoot the footage of the Documentary maker going out the back of the theatre into the outside world for this audience. Instead a backstage area was shown (not the Seymour Centre) and we ended up outside in the English snow. I thought this woudl have been effective and interesting if they could have translated their production to the space . Since their production was already about translating through time (the original 1921 script to 2009)and medium (from theatre to TV Documentary)- why not translate through space? Lets be clear here- I have no beef with re-inventions- none. But I have a huge amount of trouble with re-inventions which are half-baked and misunderstand the original text. This concept would perhpaps work best in the medium it is commenting on- TV. But this is a clumsy adaptation of a text, translated clumsilly into a challenging venue.

For some theatre experiences- the first 20 minutes is brilliant and the rest is repetition of the same ideas. In this instance the last 20 minutes were the most interesting- but hardly worth the pay-off of having to sit through an overly cumbersome 1st half.