Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Pirandello in the Salumeria - glimpses of genius

Gli attore - Richard Wilcocks e Simone Lomartire

Conrad Beck reports: 
Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934 for his powers of psychological analysis in dramatic writing, Luigi Pirandello is now more a staple of the curriculum in drama schools and on acting courses, along with the likes of Konstantin Stanislavki, than a name which triggers recognition amongst the non-specialists in the population. For most English people anyway. Some of them might have heard of Six Characters in Search of an Author (Sei personaggi in cerca d'autore) but practically no educated person in England is aware of the fact that it was not just Shakespeare who wrote a play entitled Henry IV.

Not so in Italy, Simone Lomartire told the substantial audience at their tables in Salvo's Salumeria, which has hosted so many events connected with Italian writers thanks to Headingley LitFest. Pirandello is well-known (and taught in schools) as a prose writer, who produced many short stories and novels. He was fascinated by Freud and by the masking and pretence which is basic to the theatre.

Simon and Richard Wilcocks performed extracts from Six Characters and Henry IV both before and after the audience dined (the main was pasta alla norma), which resulted in considerable applause. Some of the author's genius was revealed in glimpses. It was script-in-hand, mostly in English with a sprinkling of Italian, without costumes and acted in a very small space between tables, but it worked! It was a little audacious too - attempting to put a large number of characters into the minds of those present in less than an hour when the plays would have taken much, much longer in their full versions. 

One of them that still sticks in my mind did not have any lines, and was simply described in English and Italian - Madama Pace, who runs a bordello. She appeared before our imaginations, a grossly fat old lady wearing a ludicrous red woollen wig with a red rose stuck in it.

This appears to be an annual event, with Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and the popular Montalbano already in the bag. So what comes next?