There is an easy clarity to this production of Pirandello’s most famous play, thanks to the impeccably balanced performances under Mark Thomson’s meticulous direction. No matter the depths, twists and tricks of David Harrower’s neat relocation to a Scottish theatre in the mid-20th-century, the company peel back the layers to reveal a hugely complicated yet easily comprehensible core.
From the moment the Actors enter, arriving at a theatre to rehearse, you are aware of people creating different facades for each other, as well as that of the characters they are rehearsing on stage. If Eric Barlow’s intransigent, lumpen Stage Manager is equally rude to all, the demeanour of Romana Abercromby’s beautifully pitched ASM neatly delineates the whole company, right up to John Dougall’s domineering, exasperated god of a Director.
The arrival of the Characters, announced from a box, at once ripples the surface of this theatrical representation of a group of actors rehearsing. And as the realisation grows that the Characters really are such, dumped by a playwright and unable to find solace until their unfinished drama is told, so the vivid modernity of the play begins to grip its audience.
Ron Donachie and Amy Manson as Father and Stepdaughter have the best defined characters to work with, inhabiting all of the glowing white square of stage that the Characters become confined to. Sandra Clark seems somewhat weak as Mother, remonstrating with the Director, until you realise that she uses only those emotions given to her character. Una McLean makes a brilliantly OTT appearance as Madame Pace.
With clear design and lighting from Francis O’Connor and Chris Davey, which thought-provokingly continues after the final bow, this is a stunning, modern and gripping piece that fully justifies the extra resources created by this collaboration between the NTS, Royal Lyceum and Citizens.