IN 1958 a controversy around the Dublin Theatre Festival provoked Samuel Beckett to withdraw one of his plays from the programme and then prohibit any of his plays from being performed in Ireland again “ as long as such conditions prevail”. Those conditions were those of stringent social conservatism.
The wheel has turned full circle. The dead hand of conservatism today is that of Samuel Beckett, weighing heavily on his own plays.
Beckett's plays are in need of another edict – either that they be freed from the shackles of Beckett's own directions for them, or that, again, they be withdrawn from production, to let us discover them anew, alongside a new generation, 20 years from now.
This is likely as good a faithful production of ‘ Endgame’ as you will see. Alan Stanford's direction is crisp, and mines the play for humour. Eileen Dis's set makes dereliction elegant. The cast would be difficult to better.
Owen Roe is a vigorous Hamm, playing with naturalistic comedy. David Bradley, superb on the Gate stage in ‘ No Man's Land’ two years ago, is a wonderful Clov – crippled, battered, bullied, but resilient.
Des Keogh and Rosaleen Linehan are perfectly pitched as the denizens of the dustbins, Nagg and Nell.
But, around them, there is something missing: urgency. We have forgotten how it is to experience the great plays of Beckett as fresh works.
A new generation of interpreters is needed, and they need to tear the plays apart at the seams ( as Pan Pan have just done with ‘ Hamlet’ – using, as it happens, excerpts from ‘ Endgame’) and rediscover them. These are poems of the dispossessed, but they have become the province of a cultural elite hidebound by its own respect for their provenance. Time to let them go.