Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The End by Samuel Beckett ***1/2

The End by Samuel Beckett
By Malthouse Theatre
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, Feb 22 to March 1, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2

For the second time this month, my wish for 2011 is granted: an actor in an empty space in a show that focuses on the performer, acting technique and language – without technology. Hooray for actors!

Robert Menzies, deftly directed by Eamon Flack, stands alone in a stark, black box to perform Samuel Beckett’s novella, The End. Although not written for the stage, the 22 unedited pages of Beckett’s prose weave complex word pictures, evoking a vivid landscape filled with places and people.

Menzies’ sad, battered, clown face, scruffy hair and gruff, bleating voice conjure an old derelict wandering the streets, rambling and raving as his path leads him to his inevitable, predictable demise. The actor steps reluctantly into the space, fixes his bare feet deliberately onto a marked spot in the centre of the black floor and begins his story or, rather, his collection of scrappy memories.

The man is by turn angry, frustrated, demented, ranting, melancholy, but always confused and vulnerable.

This novella, written in 1946, incorporates elements of his later works: existential dilemma, obsession with age, death and the futility of the human condition. The old man in The End foreshadows the two hobo-clowns in Beckett’s most famous play, Waiting for Godot, and has echoes of Krapp’s Last Tapes and Endgame.

This is a hero’s journey towards death, played out by one of the forgotten and homeless people in an unforgiving city.

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