Wednesday, 29 November 2006

For Samuel Beckett, Eleventh Hour, Nov 29, 2006

For Samuel Beckett
 by Eleventh Hour Theatre
Eleventh Hour Theatre, 170 Leicester St, Fitzroy

Tues to Sat, Nov 29 to Dec 9, 2006

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Eleventh Hour production, For Samuel Beckett, is Beckett’s Endgame with a nod to his influences at the beginning, namely some footage of Buster Keaton and part of Molly Bloom’s monologue from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

The cast of four (David Tredinnick, Peter Houghton, Evelyn Krape, Richard Bligh) displays an exceptional understanding of Beckett’s style and form. They capture the absurdity, the existential dilemmas, the slapstick and verbal comedy and the eccentricity of the characters and dialogue.

Endgame, in classic Beckett style, is a grim, comic view of human existence. It highlights human foibles, physical weaknesses, ageing, desperation and confusion as well as the awful reality of our personal power relationships.

Hamm (Houghton), an invalid, is the master who treats Clov (Tredinnick) like a slave. Nagg (Bligh), Hamm’s father, and his wife, Nell (Krape), are entrapped in two large rubbish cans. They represent all humanity, all damaged in some way and heading for degeneration and death.

All four are incapacitated in some way. Hamm is blind, crippled, in pain and restricted to a huge crate-like chair on wheels; Clov has bad legs and cannot sit; Nagg and Nell rest on stumps for legs and their sight and hearing are failing. “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” says Nell.

Beckett’s debt to clowns such as Keaton and to vaudeville is evident in Endgame as it is in his Waiting For Godot. The dialogue is often rapid-fire, like that of a playful vaudevillian duo and the characters are archetypes, drawn with broad, comic brushstrokes.

Houghton’s plays the villainous master, Hamm, with a huge dose of irony and a fine, wheedling tone not unlike the egocentric Mr. Burns in The Simpsons. As Clov, Tredinnick plays the resentful servant with a shuffling gait and grumbling tone.

Krape’s eccentric voice and manner make the smaller role of Nell entertaining and Bligh’s Nagg is suitably whining and weasel-like, reminiscent of Wilfred Bramble in Steptoe and Son.

Directors, William Henderson and Anne Thompson, set the audience on two sides of the actors and focus effectively on the physicalisation of characters and adherence to Beckett’s principles of style. Designer, Julie Renton, uses distressed walls and canvas to create a grey environment that is highlighted by Niklas Pajanti’s dusky, evocative lighting. Live violinist, Miwako Abe, adds a musical dimension with Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita for Solo Violin.

Beckett could happily celebrate this year, his 100th anniversary, with this production.

By Kate Herbert

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