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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
LIOLA
at the National (Lyttelton)

BABY BOOM
By ROBERT GORE-LANGTON

  Roxanna Nic Liam, Carla Langley, Rosaleen Linehan and Niamh McGowan/ Ph: Catherine Ashmore

There’s a huge olive tree on stage, several little boys up it, and a sun-baked wall. We are in a Sicilian village where peasant women in big skirts sit and shell almonds and gossip about Liola, the local lover boy who goes around causing a baby boom. This 1916 play is by Luigi Pirandello, who is best known for Six Characters in Search of an Author – and this is a much intellectually slimmer affair. It’s a light soufflé of comedy about the only man in a village who’s not firing blanks.
 
His counterpart is a vile, crabby old landowner Simone (James Hayes), who has no heir after five years of marriage to the lovely young Mita (Lisa Dwyer Hogg). However, there is a solution. One of Liola’s conquests is soon to be a single parent. She and her scheming mother plot to have the baby claimed by the old boy as his, which he readily agrees to. Except that it doesn’t quite work out as planned.
 
For this very Italian romp, Richard Eyre directs an all-Irish cast speaking in Irish voices. Why? If you are going to import actors to London from the European Union, why not get proper Sicilians? Another thing: Tanya Ronder’s wordy version is oddly out of kilter. For example, what rural nut farmer would use the word “optimal?” 
 
But the show undeniably goes with a swing wherever it’s meant to be set. Music from an on-stage band cooks up a nice mood of celebration. Aisling O’Sullivan is a bit exhausting as the village shrew; but Hayes exudes marvelous malevolence as the landowner, Rosaleen Linehan is a comic glory as an aunt, and Rory Keenan gives an irresistible charm to the happy-go-lucky Liola. 

 


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