Steven Berkoff’s latest play explores what happens to a group of actors after the director shouts ‘cut’. It’s a waiting game, a limbo-like existence. They drink coffee and bicker and fret as they wait to be called back to the set, wait for the unseen ‘star’ to get her act together, wait for their sense of purpose to be returned to them.
Sarah Chamberlain (Debra), Ruth Everett (Francis) and Neil Stuke (Brian) in 6 Actors In Search Of A Director at Charing Cross Theatre, London (previous picture shows Philip Voss as Charles) Photo: Tristram Kenton
Though Berkoff has drawn on his own experience of location shoots, the play feels disappointingly slight. The characters share their thoughts on the demands of nightly performance, the relative merits of stage and screen acting, and their various reasons for getting into the business in the first place. But there’s little in the way of psychological insight, everything feels oddly anecdotal and insubstantial. There’s a long sequence during which the actors compare their various phones and computers that soon starts to feel like the build-up to a joke, only the pay-off never comes.
In fact this is a quality which defines the production as whole. It seems to be playing a game with its audience, but if it is, the rules are never explained. Everyone speaks in an ever so slightly heightened way, particularly Neil Stuke’s Brian, who extends each and every vowel, but only Philip Voss’s more measured performance as Charles ever really convinces. There are laughs but they’re few and far between and the production, though relatively short, feels uncomfortably overstretched.