Digital Reporter Caitlin Stansfield reviews our current production Endgame…
It’s a credit to Beckett that his darkly comic story of drudgery and frustration is still depressingly familiar nearly 60 years after it first premiered. As the master of the ‘theatre of the absurb’, Beckett turns the most mundane of situations into something surreal, bleak and hilarious. It takes a lot to make watching people sitting in a room waiting for death funny, but this work coupled with Dominic Hill’s direction manages to strike just the right note of wry, bitter laughter to make for an unmissable production.
The pouring rain outside is a stroke of luck in putting the audience in the right frame of mind from the outset; dripping in their seats looking dejected. The set itself may be the only thing you could imagine to be more miserable. Huddled in the middle of the available space, the walls are mouldy from seeping water, green smudges encroaching across the only two small windows, all of which conjures an immediate sense of hopelessness and claustrophobia. Designer Tom Piper has created a backdrop that captures the oppressiveness of the situation, but is at the same time unassuming enough to allow the performances of the actors to take centre stage.
And it is undoubtedly the performances that really stand out here. As Hamm, David Neilson bounces back and forth between revelling in his power and languishing in his frailty with ease. He conveys the duality of this character so convincingly you’re constantly torn between disgust and pity. Chris Gascoyne likewise impresses, embodying the frustrated and subservient Clov. He moves torturously about the stage, punctuating the dialogue with deep sighs, walking the fine line between disrupting the monotonous routine and falling back into complete submission. His performance is completely unpredictable, so much so that I keep changing my mind whether or not I think Clov finally worked up the courage to end the perpetual cycle of bickering. It’s obvious these two have honed this until it is absolutely perfect, and yet it still feels natural. They play off each other without hesitation, locked in a constant battle.
I loved Endgame, and if you enjoy your comedy with a heavy emphasis towards the macabre, chances are you will too. Despite this, I was relieved when the cast took their bows – It does not make for easy watching. Make no mistake, this is not a reflection on the production itself, but despite the fact I was laughing through the whole thing, it’s stressful to spend an hour and a half being faced with the pointlessness of human existence. It’s a rarity for comedy to heighten the tension, rather than break it, but Endgame somehow manages that.
This is the point though, isn’t it? You’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry at the futility of it all.
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