Endgame - Review

Appreciation of Samuel Beckett’s work is very much a personal taste with opinions often divided. There are those who believe him to be a genius whilst others see him as a theatrical charlatan and that championing him is just another case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Suffice it to say that I have still to be convinced of the former and that writing this review will be very difficult for me.

Disliking the writing’s obscurity and tediousness –that had me occasionally looking at my watch - I think it best that I treat the production as an acting exercise and comment accordingly whilst leaving it to cleverer minds than mine to defend and explain it.

Within a dark, grimy room sits Hamm, blind, unable to stand or walk and wanting to die. Around him Clov, possibly his son who he treats as a slave, begins the day’s routine. Frequent descriptions of the outside world as being zero suggest that some great apocalyptic disaster has befallen the world. Whatever hell lies outside the walls it is no match for that which Hamm’s cruelty creates for Clov within them. The cruelty extends to his parents, Nagg and Nell, who having lost their legs, are confined to dustbins where they are fed dog biscuits and abuse.

The bleakness of the play as Hamm bullies and insults all around him had redeeming moments of comedy, both verbal and physical that the cast successfully achieved.

If nothing else the play is a great test of acting skills and this production had a cast that more than meets the required calibre. Paddy O’Keefe and Louise Preecy, trapped in their metal prisons, bring out the pathos of the old couple yearning for physical affection but unable to reach each other. Sean Williams, as the abused Clov, gave a performance that was physically downtrodden yet imbued with a spirit of rebellion that often gave his master as good as he got. His staring eyes seemed to radiate malevolence

But it was Nik Hedges as the immobile Hamm that dominated the production. He delivered an astonishing performance that at times mesmerised - his delivery reflected the character’s many facets – aggressive, whinging, a crafty silkiness plus the touch of a luvy actor’s campiness.

For Mark Green’s fine direction of this play was clearly a labour of love, as a glance at the production credits reveals that he was involved in every aspect of the show’s creation, including the set. It was the essence of bleakness and I liked the idea of the audience entering via the back of it – possibly a Brechtian device to remind us that the piece was theatrical not reality.

Barrie Jerram
16 May 2010