DramaNorth WestReview

Endgame – HOME, Manchester

Writer: Samuel Beckett

Director: Dominic Hill

Reviewer: Laura Maley

The appearance of long-term Coronation Street actors Chris Gascoyne (AKA Peter Barlow) and David Neilson (AKA Roy Cropper) in Endgame must surely draw local audiences to HOME for this joint production with Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre. Some may well be new to theatre, let alone to this play’s Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer, Samuel Beckett.

As the audience enters, they see a painted picture-postcard beach scene. Behind it, Tom Piper’s set is a rust-riddled metal box in some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Two windows high up the walls are murky green. Grimy sheets cover two dustbins, and a man clenched fast into an armchair in the dead centre of the room.

The quality of performances is high. Gascoyne’s Clov has a grim commitment to tyrannical Hamm which is bitterly unwavering, and his physical rendering of Beckett’s famously painstaking stage directions seems to perfectly suit the character as much as the words he utters. Neilson’s Hamm is both boorish and boring, forcing rambling stories on Clov, with no punchline or satisfaction for the listener, and cruelly barking contrary or pointless orders at him.

The dynamic between Hamm and Clov seems how one might imagine a comedy double act doomed to test their friendship and chemistry alone for decades. They become consumed by bickering, unhealthy co-dependency, trading bile-filled one-liners in this deeply dark tragicomedy with little in the way of plot to fill the 90 minutes.

The line “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness” elicits laughter of recognition from the audience. This feels like an important key to understanding Beckett’s interpretation of everyday life, with suffering, repetition, and family tensions. Clov’s enforced role as carer for a parental figure is compared with Hamm’s brutal treatment of his own parents Nell and Nagg. In this surreal setting – and as funny as the aged parents appear, with their ghostly pallor and their wistful reminiscing of European holidays – it’s possible to momentarily forget that Hamm has literally discarded them.

Repetition of Clov’s movements, Hamm’s stories, and certain lines of other dialogue, all serve to underline the hopelessness of the whole situation – life hurtles towards death. However it can easily feel as though Beckett takes it beyond the point where this is evident, to where it simply becomes annoying.

When Clov appears ready to leave, one wonders whether it will happen. Or is this a hellish Groundhog Day-like scenario, where every day and every event is repeated? It’s hard to pinpoint a certainty to trust, in Endgame. For many this will be thrilling, for others it adds to the pile of frustrations.

One certainty though, is that Endgame offers a challenging viewing alternative to the more everyday bleakness of the Coronation Street cobbles.

Runs until 12 March 2016 | Photo:Tim Morozzo


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