Liolà at the Lyttelton
Luigi Pirandello’s Liolà is brought to life by a charming, albeit surprising, Irish cast for its opening night at the Lyttelton Theatre. Richard Eyre directs Tanya Ronder’s adaptation of the 1916 Italian drama – a story of family, loyalty and betrayal in a rural Sicilian community ruled by property, harvest and inheritance. The result is bittersweet: playful and joyous in its execution with a dark and painful undercurrent.
Young Mita, played by Lisa Dwyer Hogg, is married unwillingly to the hard-handed Uncle Simone (James Hayes) who blames her for their lack of children and heirs to his large fortune. When Simone’s niece, Tuzza (Jessica Regan), falls pregnant, she and her fiercely determined mother, Croce (Aisling O’Sullivan), convince Simone to claim her unborn child as his own. This twisted community dynamic is carried by the elusive and charismatic Liolà, played by the suitably charming Rory Keenan, whose irresistible audacity both torments and delights a predominately female cast.
The initial charm of the production is revealed not only through the cheer and lightness on its surface, but also through the cast’s staged interaction with the delightful six-piece gypsy band. Jangling, playful music often led by the vocal charms of the inherently carefree Liolà (whose name literally means someone who is “here or there”) further emphasises the rural community setting and sets a backdrop for the gossiping dialogue.
When Liolà was originally released, it was often branded misogynistic (along with many of Pirandello’s works) due to the oppressive nature of the male characters and the inferred passive compliance of the females. However, there is no evidence of this in Ronder’s modern production, as it is the ambition, will and harsh decisions of the female characters that drive the narrative and drama. The tyrannical Uncle Simone, underneath his apparent hold over the community, is merely a pawn in the game played by a group of truly strong-willed and cunning women.
The thick accents of the wholly Irish cast add charm and heart to each of their already convincing characters. However, while it was a deliberate artistic choice by Ronder and Eyre, it does result in some confusion and a slight lack of synergy between the cast and the Sicilian setting. Ultimately, Liolà still leaves the audience dancing in their seats to the gypsy band, sniggering at the perfectly effected irreverent comedy, and considering the less than moral – yet oddly pleasing – end to the twisted tale.
Liolà is on at the Lyttelton Theatre until 26th August 2013, for further information or to book visit here.