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Review: Six Characters in Search of an Author

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“Triumph for a directing debut.”

Press Night descends on QEH Theatre, Bristol’s premier small theatre, as “Six Characters in Search of an Author” goes under scrutiny.

The play follows a Director who wishes to put on a play when he is interrupted by, you guessed it, “Six Characters in Search of an Author!” The six characters want the Director to put on a play of their life story. The Absurdist play follows the “artistic differences” between both characters and actors. It all looks decidedly bleak when the characters decide to play themselves…

Should you walk away feeling that you have understood everything in this play, I would laugh uncontrollably – the intricate details make this a complex play to follow.

IMG_3371Proceedings begin with the majestic and gushing “leading actor” (Ollie Scrivens), a diva through and through. Scrivens plays the role with gusto and energy as he pushes the boundary of this stereotype to the limit. A fine performance indeed!

James Palmer breaks the silence in the auditorium with his portrayal of a traditional English Director, fittingly dressed in corduroy. Palmer plays the role with simplicity and confidence, showing the complexity of his character. There are moments where it feels as if there are two tribes going to war and the Director is the mediator. As Palmer sits at his chair brooding, twiddling his thumbs and coyly looking at the characters, the depth to which he has embodied the role becomes clear.

Barnaby Johns’ portrayal of the Father far surpasses his years. Johns’ philosophical approach, looking out to the audience with an expression of longing, was thought-provoking and effective. Johns brought intensity when fighting with his son (played by Julius Cordey), shouting, pointing fingers and violent pushing brought the emotions of a father-son break down vividly to life. Cordey maintained a grumpy portrayal of the son, pacing and crossing his arms in defiance with a real commitment to the role.

Excellent! A Triumph for a directing debut!
The main title and advertising poster

More negatively I was somewhat upset at half-hearted clapping which occasionally broke the intensity of the performance and hindered its believability. In addition, the pronunciation of Chaise-Longue would drive a language scholar insane! The “Shasay Long” encouraged me to think that I was watching an episode of minder rather than a sophisticated absurdist play!

Two actors particularly stood out—Dan Smithson and Tom Conradi. Smithson enthusiastically greets the auditorium with a bold and extremely irritating persona, the Stepson, immediately ruffling the audience’s tail feathers when he whines like a spoilt child, which fits excellently with the demands of the role. Smithson showed true versatility in his portrayal of a “spoilt brat” shouting “Me! Me! Me!” and by transforming into a weeping and sensitive character by the end of the play. Smithson’s performance was truly intriguing.

Tom Conradi, on the other hand, subtly, sensitively and beautifully portrays the mother. I challenge you to find a moment when Conradi is not in character—don’t bother, you won’t! Fidgeting with his black shawl and looking at the ground made his character come alive and made the audience feel sympathetic towards his character. Conradi’s performance is one of dedication and concentration which created an entirely realistic performance.

Harry Saunders despite having a small role made it his own and played it with much innocence and commitment. Nima Lajevardi also brought much to his part, offering the audience many times to laugh during the “Hello my son” section. The comic delivery of Lajevardi’s lines were pure genius!

Many years have passed since the last purely student directed play at this theatre and this was worth the wait! The interactions between actors and the intricacies of script editing, most notably changing a brothel into a Casino, was done extraordinarily well by Hassan Sherif and Euan Livingstone.

The production was nothing short of a success and as Euan put into his own words he thought it was “A-MAZ-ING.”

The ensemble worked well as a whole and created a piece of theatre which was truly inspiring and enjoyable to watch. I would urge anybody to cancel any prior arrangements made and watch the spectacle which is “Six Characters in Search of an Author”.

★★★★☆


Six Characters in Search of an Author is on at the QEH Theatre on the 3rd and 4th of March at 7:30pm. Tickets cost £5 for Adults and £3 for concessions and are available on the door.