Review: Liolà by Luigi Pirandello, at the National Theatre, Lyttelton stage

Aisling O’Sullivan as Croce Azzara, Rory Keenan as Liola. Photo Catherine Ashmore

Aisling O’Sullivan as Croce Azzara, Rory Keenan as Liola. Photo Catherine Ashmore

What does a Luigi Pirandello play look like? A lightness of touch that balances on darker themes, a life force that smashes through existential and moral questions, singing, live music, sunshine. On the evidence of Liolà, all these statements would be true. But Liolà is not a typical Pirandello play, “so light-hearted it doesn’t seem like one of my works” as the author himself admitted. In the National theatre production, directed by Richard Eyre in a version by Tanya Ronder, the tension between Pirandello’s darker preoccupations and the sensual drive of the story make for a delicious spiky treat.

Sicily, summer 1916. Baking sun, almond crops, barefoot children climbing trees. At the centre of it all, Liolà, a young man comfortable in his own skin, unburdened by convention, blazes through life, meets women, makes babies. His seductive power should be destructive but somehow it’s healing. Nimble-footed and nimble-spirited, he has the universe at his fingers (the live band stops playing at his slightest of signs) and turns magic tricks into the real deal. It’s a joy to watch Rory Keenan seduce every breathing soul in the room Continue reading