Review: The lovable Liolá at the National Theatre
Liolá is a cad. He loves 'em and leaves, often with a baby on the way which he then hands over to his mother to look after. He doesn't want his wings clipped and even if he did want to marry what mother in the village would give their daughter to him?
By all accounts you shouldn't like him but in Rory Keenan's hands and in Tanya Ronders version of Luigi Pirandello 1916 play you do.
Keenan's Liolá oozes charm, always ready with a song and a dance and wink to entertain the villagers when they are about the mundane task of harvesting. It is what sustains them, that and gossiping. For Liolá the hop in his step and charm is his currency not having anything else to trade. He flirts with the women and girls, plays games with his young sons and is generally loved by everyone.
Everyone, that is, except for Simone (James Hayes) who has the worldly possessions that Liolá lacks but no children to pass it onto. He's married for the second time to orphan Mita (Lisa Dwyer Hogg) and after five years he still doesn't have an heir and is growing bitter with a tendency to lash out and humiliate her.
Director Richard Eyre peppers the production with music, song and dance and it is this that adds to it's overall charm. He keeps the plays Sicilian setting, with a gnarled olive tree on the stage that the boys regularly climb. Pheasant-dressed musicians often congregate in corners of the stage Liolá stopping and starting their play as if they are his own personal soundtrack.
But for all the frivolity, in the end it comes back to Liolá and where his heart really is and for that you can forgive him an awful lot.
It is nice to see something jolly and fun and only an hour and 40 minutes long, it feels like a gap has been filled in London's current theatre offer.
Liolá runs in rep at the National's Lyttleton Theatre until November 6.
Billy Budd, Southwark Playhouse
Season in the Congo, Young VicRS/BW 6DS
James Hayes was in the National Theatre production of Women Beware Women which also starred the lovely Sam Barnett who was in Bright Star with Mr W.