Endgame

Irish Independent - - Reviews - The Gate The­atre COLIN MUR­PHY

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.

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