Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Oxford Blog >> Books + Ideas
spires from Carfax

Pirandello's The Mountain Giants - Hartley, Ionian Productions, the O'Reilly Theatre 2012

Books + Ideas — November 2012

The Mountain Giants is a complex play, further complicated by having been left unfinished by Luigi Pirandello. It has not often been performed -- notably directed by William Gaskill at the National Theatre in 1993 and Giorgio Strehler in Brooklyn in 1995 -- and is an ambitious undertaking for an amateur student group.

A group of outcasts, led by an ebullient magician, are living in a villa, where they receive an equally bedraggled group of seven actors, led by "the countess".

The actors describe their sorry story -- involving a subsequently suicidal poet-playwright writing a play which they continue to perform despite its poor reception -- in what could be "just a performance" itself.

That night, the villa sees the boundaries between dream and reality collapse, along with the boundaries between characters and actors.

And in a final act -- written by the translator, Julia Hartley, who also directed the performance -- the actors perform for the mountain giants, represented here by a bogan wedding party with no appreciation for the arts. This involves an embeddded and inverted fourth wall, and the play as a whole finishes with a nicely executed attack on the meta-conventions of the theatre, entirely in keeping with the rest of the play.

I found the performance compelling enough as drama -- the staging and lighting and sound were effective, if (perhaps intentionally) a little clunky, and there were only a few places the acting seemed to lose its footing -- but intellectually a little scattershot. It is hard to tell, with little background on the play available -- there is no English language Wikipedia entry, leaving us with Google's translation of the Italian Wikipedia article -- but that may be Pirandello's doing rather than a result of Hartley's translation and direction or the acting. There may just be too much crammed into the one play, with more metafiction than one can really wrap one's head around in an evening and a large cast of potentially interesting characters only shallowly explored.

It's not a performance I will forget in a hurry, however.

Other reviews:


No comments yet.

TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Books + Ideas << Oxford Blog << Travelogues << Danny Yee