Review – Endgame: Making Beckett entertaining
Right: Leon Cain and Clov and Robert Coleby as Hamm. Photo: Dylan Evans Photography.
Deanne Scott’s after-party photos follow the review.
By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Michael Futcher
Shake&stir Thetare Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: August 9-20. Running time: 85 minutes with no interval. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or 136 246.
As the program told us when Endgame was first performed in 1957 it polarized audiences and critics alike. People saw Beckett as either a genius or a babbling fraud. I’m one of the latter. I put Beckett alongside of Picasso as a successful deceiver of people in an Emperor’s new clothes sort of way.
But I have to hand it to shake&stir and Michael Futcher, plus an exemplary cast; they made Beckett entertaining for me. The production team of designer Josh McIntosh, lighting designer Jason Glenwright and sound man Guy Webster provided yet another brilliant backdrop to a show.
I know there is little room to move with a Beckett script, every pause and movement has to be exact, and yet Futcher found some wriggle room.
As the doom-laden Hamm sat in his armchair despairing of life and fearing of death, Clov, struggling with the pain of his injured leg and forever on call, inserted his own brand of comedy.
This was a master stroke from Leon Cain who played Clov. He is a master of clowning and, give a clown a prop and he is in his element. Cain had his prop - the stepladder – and nursed it though any number of slapstick routines. He had audience laughing and held them in the palm of his hand from the moment he limped on stage.
He was a perfect foil for Robert Coleby, who created a memorable Hamm. He kept the tangle of words interesting with a change of tone, pace and volume. The two of them together forged a painful relationship based on need and servant master dependency. It was a pleasure to watch such wonderful acting. Add to that Jennifer Flowers and John McNeill as the dustbin dispatched Nell and Nagg and it was a formidable quartet of talent.
Some years ago I played the role of Hamm in an amateur production. The director set the scene in a post-nuclear apocalypse and, we the characters were in a featureless room, rotting from radiation poisoning and dolefully pointing out the futility of life.
The words made no sense to me and did not get me thinking of anything but getting off stage.
But this production did seep into the subconscious. I saw something I had not seen before and drew my own conclusions. I saw Hamm as a dying man and everyone else as his memories as he drifted into a final sleep and tried to reconcile himself with his past sins, discarding his parents (Nagg and Nell), giving his servant years of abuse and that he was truly playing an Endgame. That was my interpretation but of course there are many others.
It was quite a revelation, even though I must confess to drifting away from the words at times. And it still did not turn me into a Beckett fan. Maybe his work is just too complex for my simple brain, or perhaps I was right in the first place.
It was a high energy after party for this production and unusually the three shake&stir artistic ADs, Ross Balbuziente, Nick Skubij and Nelle Lee had not been on stage. Amazingly it was ten years ago when they formed the company. They hardly seem to have changed at all over the years and they are still as exuberant and enthusiastic as ever. Joy in your work obviously keep you forever young!
The cast: John McNeil, Jennifer Flowers, Robert Coleby and Leon Cain
Cast, execs and crew whoop it up. Below left Leon Cain and Nelle Lee.
Eric Scott with Nick Skubij and below with Robert Coleby
Left: Michael Futcher and Ross Balbuziente