Six Characters In Search Of An Author: A Bizarre French Madhouse Play

Ironic, Bizarre, Provoking and Brilliant is Six Characters in Search of An Author.

By Abigail Tee

French dramatist Luigi Pirandello’s eccentric play, Six Characters in Search of An Author is part of a Singapore International Festival of Arts 2015 lineup. Staged by Director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and his Parisian company, Theatre de la Ville, the play is performed at the Victoria Theatre from 10 to 12 September 2015.

Having read and studied this play, my anticipation for Six Characters In Search of An Author was pretty high. Coupled with the fact that I have learnt French, I thought that this play was the perfect opportunity to test my skills as a French student and feed my inner geek as a Literature student. Indeed, it went far above my expectations.

PHOTO: JL FERNANDEZ

PHOTO: JL FERNANDEZ

Premiered in Italy in 1921, Six Characters In Search of An Author is a play written by Luigi Pirandello, who won the Nobel Literature Prize. During its first premiere, the audience was so displeased that Pirandello had to leave through a side exit. This play has been considered by many, academics and avid theatre goers, as a perfect allegory for the theatre. Irrationally thoughtful, Six Characters aims to highlight the contentious relationship of reality and illusion.

The plot of Six Characters was bizarre. Kick-started with a stage manager mechanically painting a sky-like backdrop, I immediately felt an eerie and haunting vibe. Suddenly, this vibe was cut short with an outburst of people on the stage – the Actors. They were running around in preparation to stage Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game. With this, I was immediately cued to understand that this is a play within a play.

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

The music and lighting made me focused on the rustic, subpar but somewhat comical acting of the Actors who are trying their best to beat eggs. Out of the blue, the spotlight shined on Six Characters, standing in the middle of the stage ominously. They felt like dead people begging to come alive. One of the Six Characters, The Father, asked around for an Author to which, the disgruntled Director shooed them away. However, instead of going away, the Six Characters, began to slowly intrude the stage and establish their stage presence.

They launched to tell their tragedy and managed to convince the Director to be their Author to stage their story. Compelled by the exciting plot, the Director told his Actors to abort the initial rehearsal of The Rules of the Game and start afresh with the 6 Characters’ tragedy.

What left an impression on me in Demary-Motta’s interpretation was the stark portrayal of the paradox of the theatre. It became absurdly comical and confusing when the Actors mimicked the Six Characters in hopes of making their acting more realistic. However, when they tried to re-enact certain points of the tragedy told by the Six Characters, I realised what was real and illusory became blurred.

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

At that moment, Demary-Motta brilliantly portrayed the heart of theatre where actors and characters have to often bleed into one.  It was even more amazing when The Brother, one of the Six Characters, came off stage and ran near the audience. The fourth wall was broken and it struck me to think if I was truly an audience of this play.

If there were any downside to the play, it would be the surtitles. It was easy to follow when speech was slow but when the play was punched with heated exchanges between the Characters and the Actors, this was when I relied on my French so as to enjoy the scenes on stage.

With no intermission, this 2-hour play would give you a peek to an absurdist’s take on theatre. What is theatre? Who are really the actors? And who is really the audience? It was a fabulous brain-teaser for my upcoming long weekend which left me astutely questioning the reality of theatre and falling in love once again with the French language. AT

 Six Characters In Search Of An Author

Victoria Theatre

Opens 10 to 12 September 2015

Thoughtful and chaotic, real and imagined, spiritual and metaphysical, Six Characters In Search Of An Author asks fascinating questions about the ever-shifting relationships between authors, characters, actors and audiences. This dynamic, startling and emotional production from one of the most famous theatres in France makes its Asian premiere with a big bang.

Ticket Pricing:  $25 – $75

Web Link: Six Characters In Search Of An Author

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