Allusions to the world of theatre run deeply through Reza de Wet’s Miracle; the basic premise is that a weary band of down-at-the-heel travelling players stop in an unnamed town to perform something that is redolent of the traditional morality play. In this troupe of actors we catch glimpses of what might have happened if Stoppard had fixed his eye on the Players rather than Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. However the play it cleaves most strongly to is Pirendello’s masterpiece, Six Characters In Search Of An Author. In many ways Miracle appears the inverse of Pirendello. Here it is the actors who are disturbed by a strange, almost alien presence, who represents the unknown outer world and acts as a catalyst for action. The absurdist fantasy of Pirendello has been exchanged for a more linear narrative structure but the resulting play retains an intriguing layered quality viewed through the unravelling of the travelling company.
In giving the play a theme, the director, James Farrell, focuses the attention primarily on the sense of a theatrical world gone to seed and this helps to breathe life into a script that occasionally has a rather leaden feel. When the play springs into action it comes through the dynamism of the actors’ handling of the material rather than from a script that feels like it is striving towards a grander purpose than it ever quite earns. In Farrell’s vision of exaggerated theatricality and stars on the wane, we see hints of Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon continually returning to the vaudeville rather than confront the present.
On stage this comes through in the excellent central performance by Edmund Dehn as Du Pre. He is the glue that is holding the actors together as a functioning company, and in the play as a whole it is his energy that keeps the audience engaged with the action. Dehn’s De Pre provides a wonderful sense of the final days of music hall; the constant travelling from town to town, reaching gradually dwindling audiences in ever smaller towns. He is a man who has been on the road a long time, a former star for whom accepting second fiddle would be a humiliation greater than playing to an audience of ten. So he continues and with him he drags a company by sheer force of personality alone until they reach a point where physically and mentally they cannot continue. Continue Reading Here