The Game of Roles - Free

Thu 11th – Fri 12th August 2011

reviews

Juliet Roe

at 11:32 on 12th Aug 2011

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This adaptation of Luigi Pirandello’s work was performed in the middle of the heaving, Princes Mall Shopping Centre. The cast were consigned to a tiny corner of a blacked out room where they had both the noise of the entire shopping centre as well as the slightly unnerving rumble of a train passing through Waverley beneath their feet. On top of this were the frequent mobile phones going off (one even gave a tinny rendition of ‘Night on Bald Mountain’, for which I offer kudos), crying children, flash photography and some very chatty Italians. The funny, and exasperating, thing about all of this is that it could be fed into the play’s principle question: how far are people and their actions defined by their societal roles?

The complexity of this problem and its heavy-handed exploration in the play render any judgment about the quality of this production actually quite difficult to make. What could be taken for wooden acting could be a very skilled actor making the audience aware of their role as an actor, on top of the role assigned their character in the play’s society. The shoddy venue and its complete lack of soundproofing could serve to remind the audience again of the role of theatre in delivering this debate about roles. In short, if you’re feeling like you haven’t overanalysed something in a while, this is the play for you.

Parts of the play were enjoyable and were genuinely interesting ways of incorporating the question into the fabric of the piece. Despite the incredibly small set, the choreographed shifting of chairs during characters’ conversations positioned them as mirror images of each other whilst maintaining a good flow of dialogue. The use of a hanging curtain onstage provided a much needed ‘offstage’, and it was simple uses of the space like this that gave the piece its more impressive moments. On the whole, however, the staging was rather ambitious; the duel in the last scene worked well, but the poor pair of dancers having to tango in a space no bigger than the average coffee table, tripping over wires as they did so, provoked more concern and/or giggles from the audience than the spectacle presumably intended.

On the whole this production was not very enjoyable. The question posed by the play is an interesting one but was too clumsily handled by the script. The ‘hilarious’ scenes from Neapolitan life perhaps required more knowledge of Neapolitan life than this reviewer can admit to having, but even the largely Italian audience seemed to glean little from a thoroughly British portrayal of an Italian stereotype. Or maybe that was an exploration of our national ‘roles’. Of course, it could just be my role of ‘reviewer’ making me say these things, and what exactly does that mean for my true identity? The head scratching continues.

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Fen Greatley

at 12:43 on 12th Aug 2011

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In essence, Silia cheats on Leone with Guido. Leone gets angry and ends up killing Guido in a duel. Yes, I got these names from Wikipedia, because the Scots accent was so strong that I couldn't always make out what was being said by the female lead.

The rest of the play dances around a discussion of the nature of life, a dangerous topic for entertainment purposes, but essential to Pirandello's work, which foreshadowed Absurdist theatre.

Some artistic elements are obvious – characters speaking their lines fully imbued with the feeling s at the forefront of their consciousness, even if this is not what is being told in the words. Random characters appear and props are bizarre.

There's a poor metaphor for life in an egg and an insistence on 'remembering the feeling'. I just feel confused in every sense, including intellectually. I suspect they may be confused in their message, too, since Leone first seems to suggest that we should shun roles that are proscribed to us in society, but later the opposite. I wonder why he's contradicting himself (as does Silia).

If the whole aim of the production is to highlight the fact that we shoudn't trust anyone, even rule-makers, then I'm peeved.

“I want to break free from this absurd play”, cries Silia. So do I. While the clever interspersions of Pirandello's 'Il Gioco delli Parti' with mantras from Macbeth (“Fair is foul and foul is fair / Hover through the fog and filthy air.”) shows indubitably that this cast and the plays adaptor have thought much about the subject matter, there was just too much going on and all on a small stage. A couple dance for thirty seconds in a space the size of a water closet, almost tripping on their exit. A man sits on the front row in a cross between a pair of harem pants and a kilt, obviously part of the piece, waiting for his moment to play his offensive tambourine. An egg is cracked and a giant balloon popped.

What I do like is the use of high artistry to create a very different and new, not at all traditional effect, showing the stagnation of conformity. A rose is trimmed on stage while an annoying Italian man speaks incomprehensibly, chattering about language. There's violin music and venetian masks, besides the Shakespearean interjections.

The production does well to alienate us and Brecht might like the script, but the concept of the separation of body and mind conveyed by the characters talking past one another, turning chairs and facing away, or standing behind a sheet does not stop me from feeling the discomfort of my ass on the chair. I couldn't tell you if it was well acted or not, it was so stylized; perhaps that means that this troupe has succeeded in a thankless artistic pursuit.

As Free Fringe, this failed. Such a play necessitates, if not deserves, a focused and consciously perceptive audience. Too many media were employed to entertain and sensationalise, I feel.

Every time I got close to engaging with the drama I had to turn around and tell some stupid Italian girls to shut up. Countless mobile phones went off and a baby girl, not content with bawling her head off, decided to go walkabout on the stage: I doubt the audience noticed that it wasn't part of the show. Resolved and done properly, this piece might have a chance.

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Comments

Kim Templeton; 25th Aug 2011; 16:00:05

"the Scots accent was so strong that I couldn't always make out what was being said by the female lead."

?? This confuses me somewhat. Are you aware that the fringe is in Edinburgh, which is in Scotland? The accent wasn't even that strong, she spoke far too quietly which made her hard to hear, but I still managed to get every word. In fact, I'd say the man playing the character Leone had a stronger accent. What a ridiculous thing to say in a review of a show being shown in Scotland.

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