Mar 23 2016 | By More

★★☆☆☆    Undercooked

Bedlam Theatre: Tue 22 – Sat 26 March 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Underpowered and oddly hesitant, EUTC’s production of Endgame has flashes of inspiration but fails to convince.

Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece, originally written in French, is set in an unexplained, seemingly post-apocalyptic world.

Jennifer Jones (Nagg), Thomas Noble (Hamm) and Michael Hajiantonis (Clov). Photo Phoebe Campbell-Harris

Jennifer Jones (Nagg), Thomas Noble (Hamm) and Michael Hajiantonis (Clov). Photo: Phoebe Campbell-Harris

It features the chair-bound Hamm and his servant Clov, who cannot sit down – or, it appears, leave his master however much he may desire to. Completing the household are Hamm’s parents, Nell and Nagg, famously confined to dustbins.

It would be unfair to pass judgement on Thomas Noble (Hamm), forced as he was to have the script on his lap. However, it must be said that there are few characters in drama less suited to reading than this one, whose blindness is constantly being referenced.

What is missing as a result is any sense of a rhythm being built up in the exchanges between Hamm and the others. In what has been called a tragicomedy, it takes a very long time for either the tragedy or the comedy to come through. Many lines that should be darkly funny are met with silence, as if no-one is quite sure what to make of any of it.

vocally impressive

This is unfortunate, as Michael Hajiantonis is more than adequate as Clov. He understands the humour and rhythm of the lines, even if he has little to work against. Physically, his performance is not quite there yet, with his stiff-legged gait a little too apologetic and not definite enough to work completely, but vocally he is impressive.

Michael Hajiantonis (Clov). Photo Phoebe Campbell-Harris

Michael Hajiantonis (Clov). Photo: Phoebe Campbell-Harris

Having an Irish Clov and an apparently upper-class English Hamm is an interesting way of reinforcing the post-colonial subtext many have found in the play; what is less obvious is why these backgrounds are duplicated in Hamm’s parents.

Jennifer Jones (Nagg) and Antonia Weir (Nell) struggle with the problems of staginess often encountered by young performers taking on much older roles, but succeed in capturing some of the poignancy of the characters.

Director Finlay McAfee obviously knows what he is trying to do but unfortunately this never really gets going. There can be no doubting the play’s power; enough of it shines through despite the stop-start, unsatisfactory nature of proceedings.

However, the bitterly hard-won observations – about hope, futility, ageing and interdependence – that should characterise the play are largely lost; what remains is less absurd than downright inexplicable.

Running time 1 hour 45 minutes (no interval)
Bedlam Theatre, 11 Bristo Place, EH1 1EZ
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 March 2016
Daily at 7.30pm
Full details and tickets on the Bedlam website: https://www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk/shows/endgame-2016


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