A version of Pirandello's Right You Are
For We Are Many
The Arches, Glasgow
For We Are Many are a young Glaswegian company who have been exploring physical theatre and devised drama for around three years: earlier works have seen them match the controlled chaos of Forced Entertainment against youthful exuberance and idiosyncratic content. Rigmarole is a more formal and considered production- a version of Luigi Pirandello's Right You Are - and forces the company to fall back on more traditional qualities.
With the performers and audience seated around a large black dinner table while wearing black party hats, the play takes on the atmosphere of a demented party. The hosts- an anxious couple played with straight-forward discomfort by Fred Gray and Scarlet McGlynn - await the arrival of two unwanted, foreign guests. These guests - who have suffered a vague yet terrible tragedy - are impersonated in broad caricature by the cast, who are trying to understand the consequences of the tragedy. Their thinly veiled xenophobia, and social snobbery, infects their discussion and gradually moves the plots towards its slightly disappointing finale.
Although it is heartening to see For We Are Many challenge themselves by moving away from the mayhem of their earlier works, Rigmarole is less enjoyable. It relies on strong, old school acting- an area where they are competent rather than excellent. And the usual intimacy of their work, where they slip in and out of character, address the audience and generally leave the processes of creation visible, is sadly lost. The ideas that Rigmarole suggests - casual racism, the impossibility of knowing other people, the wretched anxiety that lurks behind social facades - are never really examined in depth. Perhaps more importantly, they aren't really that surprising. In spite of Phil Spencer's rewriting, Pirandello's atmosphere seems very disconnected from modern concerns.
Having said that, the company's interaction with the audience is still powerful. A group of school-children are kept entertained by Gray's nervous asides and a strident, swaggering Kieran Hurley. The switches between character are well managed and funny and the set is simultaneously disturbing and familiar: the huge size of the table makes it a potent symbol of both familial intimacy and the gap between the characters. Spencer's direction moves the action along at a steady, rapid pace and sudden shifts in emotion - such as Gray's irritation at Hurley or McGlynn's unwinding - are wrenching and shocking. Certainly, compared to the staid version of Six Characters in Search of an Author by the National Theatre of Scotland, FWAM see Pirandello as more than a historical curiosity and are attempting to link absurdist theatre with contemporary performance practice.
Even if this particular production doesn't quite manage to explode, it is heartening to see the company open up new possibilities and take risks. Ironically, FWAM stretch themselves by testing more conventional drama, setting aside their Goat Island physical styles and reverting to a chamber ensemble work.
Reviewer: Gareth Vile