Six Characters in Search of an Author is a play that wears its skeleton on the outside: an acting company’s rehearsal is interrupted by the appearance of an ill-fated family, intent on having their story performed.
Amelia Thurley’s direction throughout is pristine. Staging is intelligently thought-out, and the production’s many moving parts are kept in motion with a deft, intuitive hand. Events are given an eerie tone by both lighting and stagework, with the space clearly being used to its utmost potential. Even more impressive is that, on having to cover a sudden illness in the cast, Thurley also delivered a standout performance as the tragic, protective Mother.
Kieran Haines played the central role of the Stepfather with a particularly engaging mix of affectation and domineering pomp, as much as the Son, played by Daniel Elliman, showed levels of smarminess undercut by more subtle shades of desperation. Interplay between the cast was a pleasure to watch, particularly when the on-stage ‘actors’ put on the role of ‘characters’. The cast excelled most when locked in back and forth scenes of jarring intentions and artistic visions, group chemistry present in abundance.
The production does, unfortunately, have its share of shouting in place of acting. Quite frequently characters lost nuance in overplayed aggression. These were by no means massive problems, but enough to notice during the performance.
Strange though it may sound, the best performances of the evening were from the two puppet children. Their inclusion in the first place was a stroke of genius, in place of child actors, and the puppets themselves are eerie, hollow-eyed creations from Alice Sillett. They were animated beautifully by puppeteers Megan Robertson, Tash George, Calum Ward and Oliver Robinson-Sivyer: they made sure there wasn’t a single lifeless moment for the puppets during the entire production.
Overall, this year’s Bath Spa Theatre Society production is a wonderful piece of theatre, expertly devised.