Edinburgh Fringe: Six Characters in Search of an Author

DANIEL HYMAN experiences all things “meta” with this impressively original play.

6 characters Edinburgh Fringe sam reynor Victoria Fell

C Venues, 8.45pm, Wed 31 July – Sat 17 August, £10.50/£8.50

‘There are a million and one reviewers in this town – if you listen to every one out there, you’ll explode!’

Thus pleaded a Character to his Author, but the warning was unnecessary – the quality of acting seen today was superb.

Six Characters in Search of an Author begins with the director stating to his Characters that “We’re making an omelette here… you need to break a few eggs.” At this point, the “Characters” are merely shadows behind a screen; clever, meta-theatrical quotes abound, threatening to verge on cliché. This is a play about a play, yet at first it’s not clear what’s going on. We’re not sure how it will develop, or indeed whether it will develop at all.

The audience is given time to pause, wonder and anticipate these eggs which promise to be broken. The anticipation of the unknown was very effective – instead of merely revealing all at once, as so often happens with Fringe shows, the eggs are broken slowly but surely. (That’s enough eggs now.)

It’s worth reiterating that the acting was superb throughout. While this may sound like a simplistic analysis, the quality of acting made the play – lesser performances would have perhaps caused it to smack of cliché. Subtleties such as posture and facial expressions were held to perfection by the Characters, Victoria Fell and Julian Mack in particular. The choice of music always hit the right notes and added to the atmosphere each scene sought.

At this point, the Characters emerge from the shadows. Alongside this small cast, we see a director, his actors and stage hands hoping to find an author to make their story come alive. ‘Trying to make real something that’s not; that is the first sign of madness’, we’re told, but the Characters are their story – they are real to themselves.

With their eerie control over their bodies, the Characters evoke emotion through their portrayals of passion and anger, yet by contrast the actors, stage hands and director seem more fluid, more jovial and more human. The effect of this contrast is the sense that the audience is a fly on the wall, witnessing a real cast preparing for a real play. We’re told that ‘the illusions we create are our reality’, and for some moments, in particular when it was revealed that the audience member behind me was, in fact, lead actor Sam Reynor, I genuinely felt like the goal of “reality” was fully achieved.

That’s the beauty of this play. It has emotion, feeling and reality. It implicitly sums up what acting should be about. In some sense the sub-plot of the Characters is tangential- almost omitted from this review, although it is a worthy tale. Yet, through the clever, well-acted plot, this play about plays construes the philosophy of acting while keeping a safe distance from the predictable.