Absolutely! (Perhaps); Theatre

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

What a strange, strong spell octogenarian director Franco Zeffirelli casts. As soon as the lights go up on the extraordinary set Zeffirelli himself has designed, we seem under the sway of a master magician. A wilderness of wall-to-wall mirrors make the stage, with its coloured mosaic backcloth and gilt framework, into a dizzying, optical illusion of extended width and height. This is no bourgeois living room as the playwright specified, but a handsome, towering architectural edifice. It is a labyrinth whose significance later becomes apparent.

Zeffirelli has taken a neglected parable drama by Luigi Pirandello, and made it resound with riveting contemporaneity.

Martin Sherman's fresh, witty version demonstrates the play's depiction of how truth is relative, elusive and dependent upon individual perception. The dividing lines between reality and illusion, Pirandello implies, are forever blurred with madness, a device warding off problems of identity. Curiosity, a governing drive of our own celebrityobsessed-culture, similarly dominates Absolutely! (perhaps).

The Agazzi family are intrigued by three new arrivals in town: Joan Plowright's melancholic Signora Frola admits she is barred from close contact with her daughter - married to distraught Signor Pronza - because this emotionally disturbed son-in-law claims his wife's exclusive attention.

Pronza insists Frola suffers from madness, precipitated by the death of her daughter, to whom he was married and that he now lives with a second wife.

Each fresh revelation leaves the truth less fathomable, with the Councillor's family mystified about where the truth lies. The setting, with trompe l'oeil illusions, literally and figuratively mirrors this sense of confusion. As a text Absolutely! …