6 Characters in Search of an Author: My Favourite Kind of Weird

Dominic Kimberlin reviews Joe Cunningham's production of 6 Characters in Search of an Author, which went up during On the Rocks 6 characters This was a really weird play, and happily one of my favourite kinds of weird. It's the kind where the narrative suddenly gives way to another kind of narrative, which is commented on by the inhabitants of the previous narrative, before being dissolved into another narrative. The show begins with a production team discussing their latest production about euthanasia and their decision to cast a terminally ill child in it. This naturally raises questions about the legitimacy of the theatre, and the desire to present something “real” on the stage. Suddenly, there is a loud banging from the doors of Venue 1, and in walks a macabre horde, the eponymous 6 characters abandoned by their author.What follows is the gradual re-construction of their contextual foundation, weaving the setting from which they have been displaced by staging various scenes in greater and greater detail. The internal relationships between these 6 characters, continually re-articulated and re-constructed by the Director, begin to emerge as the only stable structure within the play. Their various perspectives invite resolution by the audience, whose reactions are more or less aligned with the Director’s in their desire to uncover the characters’ pasts. 6 characters Cate Kelly’s performance as the Director was superb. The emotional response to the unfolding narratives around her was convincing and moving, particularly as her drive to create something important and meaningful led her further into the world of the 6 characters. Her eventual breakdown drew genuine empathy, particularly as the audience is implicated in the same curiosity which displaces her from her own narrative.The interaction between the Father (David Portmore) and the Stepdaughter (Josephine Wolfe) was consistently fascinating. Their delivery was impressive due to the sheer volume of lines they had, and they instantly engaged me with their intricate performances. The Mother (Alexandra Koronkai-Kiss) was also remarkable in this regard; these elements together established the delightfully histrionic surrealism which made their world so darkly enrapturing.Another highlight was Peter Stanley, whose initial appearance as the amoral Producer was well-acted. However, his re-emergence shortly into the second act as the engagingly psychotic Mr. Pace, erupting through a bed that the audience had watched moved on-stage minutes before, was by far one of the most entertaining moments of the play. In general, the conviction of every actor in their performance was commendable, displaying legitimate terror as the boundaries between the narratives eroded. Unfortunately, it was sometimes difficult to hear the production team’s lines, especially near the beginning, which led to a slow-feeling start.Both costumes and make-up of the 6 characters were excellent, providing a clear contrast to the naturalism of the production team: stark black, Gothic clothing and ethereal, white face-paint. Their collective presence on-stage was spectacular to witness. The use of music was effective and was often employed to create an unreal atmosphere to the proceedings, along with some especially chaotic lighting. Transitions between different narrative spaces were accomplished with professional flair.Overall, 6 Characters in Search of an Author was a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking play. It was skilfully re-iterated to fit its context, thus further blurring the boundaries between reality and theatre, and so producing a rather brilliant theatrical experience.logo Dominic Kimberlin Photo credits go to Mathilde Johnsen, Lightbox, and On the Rocks