Lyttelton, NT, London
Theatre review: Liola - An unexpected delight from the National
Thursday 08 August 2013
Pirandello described this play as a comedy “full of songs and sunshine...so light-hearted it doesn't seem like one of my works” and, to be sure, it will come as quite a surprise to anyone expecting the usual tricksy, meta-theatrical meditations on the relativity of truth and the deceptiveness of personal identity et al.
But the writer had published many short stories of Sicilian rural life before his relatively late success as a dramatist and Liola (1916) has more in common with these than with the classic Pirandello of Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Using a new version by Tanya Ronder, Richard Eyre's beautifully judged production keeps the sun-baked Sicilian setting (a gnarled olive tree overhangs the wooden platform that constitutes the village square in Anthony Ward's strong, simple design) but his excellent cast give an Irish accent to the proceedings. Because of emigration through poverty, this is a world numerically dominated by the women who have gathered to shell the almond crop.
The two male characters are comically polar opposites. Rory Keenan oozes cocky charm and is wonderfully at ease in his own flesh as the free-spirited Liola who has already fathered three sons by as many girls, whereas James Hayes's crabbed landowner Simone still has no heir after five years of marriage to the lovely, abused Mita (Lisa Dwyer Hogg). It's a token of his frustration that when a young relative of his falls pregnant by Liola, he's prepared to claim that the child is his. But Liola, who has long loved Mita, realises that this is a game that can be played more than once and in her interest.
The production, which is part of the Travelex £12 season, is suffused with Orlando Gough's attractive Balkan-tinged music played by an onstage gypsy band who, amusingly, underline how Liola has the world on a string by striking up and stopping at his whim like some personal backing group. Morally, the play is meant to be a bit equivocal all round and one notices here how, once she has her own lie to brazen out, the vulnerable Mita becomes discomfitingly hard-eyed and unsmiling. In a terrifically animated and convincing ensemble, Rosaleen Linehan brings a splendidly sardonic glint to her elderly aunt Gesa and Aisling O'Sullivan revs into a roaring termagant as the furious, scheming mother of her foiled rival. The mood is hauntingly amplified by the songs such as “That's How It Is”, the chorus of unillusioned shrugging acceptance with which the show closes. An unexpected delight.
To Nov 6; 0207 452 3000
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
- 2 Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
- 3 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland