CORONATION Street’s David Neilson and Chris Gascoyne are currently starring in an immensely thought-provoking HOME and Citizen Theatre production of Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece, Endgame. Quays News entertainment reporter Seren Hughes-Jones went to watch it…
‘Fin de Partie’ (the original French variation of the play’s title) was first performed in 1957, receiving a back-lash from an audience who found it a harsh echo of reality. Yet now the plays adaption revisits what is now more relevant than ever: the meaning of our lives. Dominic Hill’s 2016 production allows its audience to laugh along with the macabre reality of the character’s dire lives, and provides us with a significant taint of mockery and dark humour through its projection of bleak precarity.
At 90 minutes long with no interval, this one-act piece is an intense, breath-taking emancipation of Beckett’s genius. The set, designed by Tom Pipers, presents an empty, rusty, and painfully bare room with two high windows, an off-stage kitchen, and two bins stage right that contain Hamm’s (played by Neilson) legless parents, Nagg and Nell.
Terrific performances from David Neilson, Chris Gascoyne and company in Endgame at @HOME_mcr : funny, bleak, thought provoking – all sorts!
— Toby Hadoke (@TobyHadoke) March 3, 2016
Hamm, described by HOME as a “chair-bound tyrant” along with Clov his “dutiful companion” who obeys his every order, live in what is implied as a post-apocalyptic, Godless world, barely existing in the grey, frozen “zero” of time.
Partaking in the circularity of routine and repetition, Neilson and Gascoyne use their characters as the main stars of what can only be described as a continuous ‘speech game’. With elements of existentialist undertones and an alignment with the absurd these incoherent babblings, identical sequences of dialogue and unconventional plot features certainly make you curious as to what else all this actually stands for.
Although there is not much for an audience to observe on stage, the empty room is filled by simply the character’s captivating words and their physical acting styles alone. Without even moving from his seat, Neilson steals the show. His almost unrecognisable transformation into Hamm encapsulates a powerful vocal range, teamed with an eye-catching costume and make-up combination, turning him into a hugely dominating protagonist, but one we can sympathise with at the very least.
Gascoyne, a Beckettian himself, brings Clov to life in a highly physical-orientated performance where it is quite possible to believe that his precisely executed disability is real. Clov hooks an audience into Endgame’s own timeless reality, yet it is paradoxically destroyed with the characters being aware of their own theatrical presence. A notable mention also goes to Barbara Rafferty for her moving, emotional performance as Nell, and Peter Kelly for his humorous, and profoundly energetic performance (in spite of him being confined to a bin) of Nell’s husband, Nagg.
Endgame not only entertains on the surface, but it leaves you accompanied by an internal puzzling voice as you begin to try and fit together the pieces a play that is designed to resist closure.
Went to see Endgame at @HOME_mcr last night. Stayed with me all day. Disturbing and bleak – can’t pretend I ‘enjoyed’ but enthralled.
— Justin Moorhouse (@justinmoorhouse) March 2, 2016
It is apparent that Samuel Beckett wrote for everyone, and this adaption is no exception. The combination of first class acting, dark yet relatable humour, and an ending that is will leave an audience stunned to silence, it is certainly not one to miss.
By Seren Hughes-Jones
Endgame runs until Saturday, March 12 and tickets can be bought online now…