Six Characters in Search of an Author, theatre review: A mesmerising meditation on illusion and reality

Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

Director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and his Parisian company, Theatre de la Ville, present their luminous, dream-like yet sharp-witted and swiftly-paced production (performed in French with English surtitles) of Pirandello's profound meditation on the troubled relationship between illusion and reality.

Beautifully designed and lit with a platform inner stage, heightened shadow play on sheets, and in-joky scenic touches, the production deftly conveys the emotional agony underlying the play's meta-theatrical tricksiness,

At once dumpily solid and dustily spectral, with the look of a businessman clown but the ringing accusatory tones of a great tragedian, Hugues Quester is extraordinarily haunting as the Father of the dysfunctional family. Like funereal refugees, this bunch intrude on a play rehearsal with the bizarre claim that they are abandoned, unfinished characters who carry within themselves a tragic story of near-incest and suicide that demands completion. 

Are these undying fictional figures more or less real than the mortal actors whose initial scepticism and inept attempts to simulate their truth in recreated scenes are drolly signalled here. With Alain Libolt spot-on as the arrogant, insensitively exploitative director and Valerie Dashwood transfixing as the unappeased, derisively  provocative Stepdaughter, this mesmeric, precise production builds to a climax where the question is left dizzyingly moot.

To February 7; 020 7638 891