“Have you sometimes wondered what a character did before the story began or after it ended” Luigi Pirandello
This quote, purchase along with influences from TV and film, was starting point for the 2012 School of Drama’s Performance Project’s show The Uscars. Devised by the twenty-five students of the course and Kellie Hughes, the UCD Ad Astra Director in Residence, the piece is a clever look at the persona of the character and how, having been imagined into existence, they continue eek out an existence in their meta-world of the off-stage.
Structured in the form of an ‘awards ceremony for the forgotten’, the characters stream on stage like the directors, actors, and writers of award ceremony glitterati so frequently seen on TV. Characters from the Weird Sisters (Sarah Barr, Kathryn Crowley, Ciara Dredge) to Winnie (Carole Quigley), the Devil (Ross Gaynor) to Dionysus (Enda Reilly) take the space and the rush and flurry builds the atmosphere for the first awards. Reilly performs the charismatic host well moving through the awards ranging from Most Ridiculous Stage Direction to Best Supporting Supporting Character and the characters come and go from the space as if being called to another stage.
As the play develops out the characters begin to argue as to who is the most unfortunate; this is the impetus for the Stepdaughter’s (Caitriona Ennis) entrance. The Stepdaughter is one of Pirandello’s great inventions: the character he invented but rejected, a character whose story is made but never told; she is an unfinished character. These characters live out their existence, replaying their story, convincing audiences of their importance. The Stepdaughter in her inability to tell her story becomes one of the most interesting characters in the show.
The show plays heavily on bad puns and theatrical in-jokes and while hilarious for the regular theatre goer or the very well read many of them seemed to go over people heads. The show didn’t bore them however. Snappy dialogue and clever interpretations of characters –particularly that of Blanche Dubois (Leanne Bennett) –and the perfectly placed musical number where the entire ensemble begin to perform an adapted version of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango kept the audience engaged.
Joe Hunt’s sound design was one of the show’s highlights. Cue perfect it kept the action moving rapidly and worked beautifully with Michael Cummins’ lighting design. Hughes and her ensemble case have done a great job of devising a witty
and enjoyable show.