by David Sumner
When an actor takes on a part in a play or film, he or she has to play a character.
But suppose we think of it the other way round – a character in search of an actor? This was the premise of an extraordinary play at the Swallow Theatre last Saturday - ‘La Tragedie Comique’, which was presented by the Edinburgh-based Company Plutot La Vie.
The play was written in French by Eve Bonfanti and Yves Hunstad, and both translated and performed by Tim Licata. We see the character finding his actor as a baby, then watching him grow up, and eventually making his first tentative efforts to play the part. In the course of a ninety minute virtuoso performance which had the total attention of the audience, Tim Licata switched effortlessly and almost instantaneously between the character and his actor, with the help of just a false nose. He leapt in the air, stood on his head, argued with himself, joked with members of the audience, and had a playful dialogue with the lighting operator (Laura Hawkins).
This was a performance full of rich comic invention, but also, like all good comedy, contained much that was genuinely thought-provoking: flights of imaginative speculation on the enigmatic nature of time and the frailty of human life, leaving us with the thought that a character can last longer than the actor who briefly inhabits the role; and that if anything endures of us, it is love.
More theatre at the Swallow on July 4 and 5: ‘Moving On’, a new play by Claire Charles, which is described as ‘One woman’s tale of love, life, laughter and living’.