It says much about the drawing power of Steven Berkoff, the grand old man of English Theatre (how he'll hate that description) that his likeness is used so extensively in the publicity for a play in which he doesn't appear. As writer and director of 6 Actors In Search Of A Director (at Charing Cross Theatre until 23 June) is certainly thoroughly Berkoffian - so why not?
As in his recently revived Kvetch, Berkoff stacks a group of misfits into an enclosed space and lets them rattle on about how their lives aren't quite working out as expected - as lives don't. The set up this time has six actors on a location shoot stuck in a remote hotel lobby waiting for the call that will see them back on set acting, as winter bites and bristles outside. Inside, backbiting and bitching are more the order of the day, as the actors lament their lot - the poor luvvies.
The actors themselves are recognisable types: Brian (Neil Stuke) is the cynical and ranty; Debra (Sarah Chamberlain) is earnest and fragile; Alan (Paul Trussell) is bored and angry; Francis (Ruth Everett) is feisty and assertive; Eve (Andree Bernard) is on the slide and getting on the booze; and Charles (Philip Voss) is more interested in his daughter's well-being and can't really be arsed any more. Round they go, bouncing off each other to amusing and, occasionally, enlightening effect.
Of course, it is a play about actors and acting, so charges of self-indulgence can be levied, and not without cause, but this play is also about the condition of waiting and its attendant frustrations, an aspect of life that occupies us more and more as security concerns, technical failures and the sheer preciousness of time in a world full of possibilites, means that we always seem to be on hold or retrieving a password or in a queue for a bag scanning machine. Berkoff, as Berkoff does, taps into that zeitgeisty anger and channels it into deep language and dark laughter.