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

Singapore International Festival of Arts: Pushing Boundaries and Questioning Relativity

After last year’s highly successful festival, SIFA is back featuring works by 12 of Singapore’s finest award-winning artists.

I love Augusts. It’s one of the best times of the year (after Christmas). Singapore celebrates her birthday in August (yay to holidays!), there are plenty of ‘national day’ deals islandwide, and there’s the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA). From 6 August to 19 September, the public will get to watch and participate in as many as 65 free and paid SIFA shows.

For those who aren’t in the know, SIFA isn’t some ‘new kid on the block’. Rebranded as SIFA last year, the festival was previously known as the Singapore Arts Festival which really began as early as 1977. Singapore Arts Festival also brought to us highly acclaimed international acts like 2008’s opening show; Water Fools performed in the Singapore River by French group Ilotopie, and 2011’s opening show and by far Singapore’s largest outdoor theatre; When the Gray Taiwanese Cow Stretched by Ishinha (which also happens to be one of my first encounters with highly-artistic performative art shows).

Today, SIFA continues to be one of the most-important, if not the gold-standard for arts festivals in the region. One of the best part about SIFA is; it always sought to bring in international acts to cultivate and enrich Singapore’s art scene. SIFA also provides a platform for local budding artists to experiment and create multi-disciplinary and cross-genre works – works that may not be commercial sellouts but one that pushes boundaries and challenges perspectives to traditional mindsets.

SIFA Cover copy

This year’s theme is titled POST-Empires, and is curated by festival director and 2003 Cultural Medallion recipient, Ong Keng Sen. Coincidentally running in sync with the theme of Singapore Art Museum’s latest exhibition After Utopia, the festival looks at life after colonial regimes, and increased globalisation across countries and cultures.

After colonial regimes, after dictatorship, after communism, we witness a globalisation of life. What comes after the Empires from which we have emerged? How do we live with the global networks and monopolies of power which define the age we live in?… Can we rewrite the History that has been written for us? – SIFA

Mark down your calendars! Whether you’re just an ordinary Singaporean wanting to find out more about the arts, or a serious arts hobbyists looking to be awed, there’s something for everyone at SIFA. RW

My Top Three Picks

NANYANG, The Musical

NANYANG_screenshot_@National Arts Council & The A List copy

It’s Singapore’s 50th Golden Jubilee. So it’s forgiveable that we entertain a third production that’s have anything to do with Singapore (after the mega-disappointing Singapura: The Musical and the theatrical spectacular The LKY Musical).

Different from the other musicals, NANYANG, The Musical looks into the ancestry of the Chinese disapora through the eyes of painter Chen Kang prior to their resettling in Singapore. Kang is an up-and-coming painter who has had to uproot himself from his motherland for reasons of career development and impending wars.

Infusing experimental mix of style and techniques from Chinese pictorial traditions and the School of Paris (Singapore Infopedia, 2009), the 南洋 or ‘Nanyang’ style – directly translated as the Southern Seas and referred to the entire South China Sea region – unique to the region was born, with Singapore and Malaysia being right at the heart of it all.

Perhaps using the allegory of Nanyang style as a metaphor of sorts on the Chinese diaspora in Singapore, NANYANG, The Musical will be instrumental in filling in the untold stories of our Chinese ancestors who merge different cultures to form a unique ‘Singaporean’ style. The musical will be performed in Chinese and surtitled in English.

Date: 6 to 8 August 2015

Venue: Drama Centre Theatre

Web Link: NANYANG, The Musical

Ticket Pricing: $25 – $75

Dementia

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Dementia is real. And it is plain scary, considering for fact that dementia affects one in 14 people over the age of 65 and one in six over the age of 80 (Alzhemier’s Society, n.d.).

Dementia is set in post-socialist Hungary, a world-famous psychiatric hospital is on the brink of being shut down. Only a handful of patients are left vegetating on the fourth floor, abandoned in the empire of amnesia. Directed by Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, the show throws in some often-ignored big questions like “What benefit can society ever hope to reap from prolonging the lives of mental patients?”, or “What is the point of helping those who are suffering – specifically those who are not even cognisant of their own state – and numbing them even further with modern medicine?”

Hitting hard back home, the show challenges us to define our moral standpoint on how we should treat people suffering from dementia, and resulting actions that follow. I can’t help but think that exploring this theme will open up a can of worms and pandora’s box because tackling this theme could very well spill over to readdressing the issue of euthanasia and other related moral dilemmas.

Personally, dementia is a topic that is very close to my heart since my paternal grandmother also suffers from dementia. I am really looking forward to watching Dementia. Dementia will be performed in Hungarian and surtitled in English.

Date: 13 to 15 August 2015

Venue: Victoria Theatre

Web Link: Dementia

Ticket Pricing: $30 – $60

Six Characters In Search Of An Author

PRESS_SixCharactersInSearchOfAnAuthor_Theatre de la Ville--«JLFernandez012 copy

All lit lovers would know or have at least heard of Luigi Pirandello’s 1921 play, Six Characters in Search of an Author. The chaotic and metaphysical play takes an unadulterated look at the relationship between theatre practitioners, actors and their characters.

A dysfunctional family of six bursts into a rehearsal at a theatre with a curious claim: they are characters who have abandoned their author and are looking for someone who can complete their story. Intrigued, the director agrees to help. Along the way, everyone’s roles come into question. Who’s the actor and who’s the spectator now? Who’s the author? What’s real and what’s not?

Performed in French and surtitled in English, Six Characters in Search of an Author is one of the most famous theatre show in Europe which also won Pirandello a 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature. It will be interesting to see how us Asians comprehend and react to this rather unconventional and absurd play.

Date: 10 to 12 September 2015

Venue: Victoria Theatre

Web Link: Six Characters In Search Of An Author

Ticket Pricing: $25 – $75

Other Shows to Look Out For:

HOTEL

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W!LD RICE productions are always very warmly received and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t – with the likes of Ivan Heng, Glen Goei, Alfian Sa’at and their crazily-talented cast on board. HOTEL contrasts the intersecting dialogues between past hotel guests back in the days of colonnial rule, and present hotel guests in Singapore long since the British Empire has ceased to exist. HOTEL will be performed in English, Malay, Tamil, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Japanese.

Details: HOTEL

Versus

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Born from the desire to chart humanity’s passage from the beginning to its present state, Versus is a ferocious performance about our existence amidst all the wars we wage. We have learnt our lesson, or have we? Exploring the themes of war and humanity, Versus seems set to challenge our perspectives and blow our mind.

Details: Versus

Kumar’s Living Together

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Funny man Kumar is back! Kumar’s Living Together is a series of live stand-up comedy performances rooted in Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-national housing landscape. Fronted by the witty and biting Kumar, these performances delve into issues that affect Singaporeans in the most personal and intimate of settings – their own homes.

Details: Kumar’s Living Together

Discounts

DANCE MARATHON BUNDLE (Till 5 September 2015)
30% off ticket purchases
Valid with a minimum purchase of 4 SIFA productions and 2 Dance Marathon productions.

PUNK BUNDLE (Till 5 September 2015)
30% off ticket purchases
Valid with a minimum purchase of 5 Dance Marathon productions.

SIFA BUNDLE (From 11 May 2015)
15% off ticket purchases
Valid with a minimum purchase of 4 SIFA productions

Singapore International Festival of Arts

Opens 6 August to 19 September 2015

The Singapore International Festival of Arts pushes artistic boundaries through strength, vision and courage to present quality performances that mark it as the pinnacle arts event in Singapore. Located and created with Singaporeans, with a strong global connection and image.

Web Link: Singapore International Festival of Arts