REVIEW: ENDGAME at Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead

FIVE STAR RATING Oh do not ask What is it? Let us go and make a visit. These lines from Eliot s Prufrock come into my head whenever I see a play by Beckett. There s really only one way to cope with Beckett and t


Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead


'Oh do not ask "What is it?" Let us go and make a visit.' These lines from Eliot's Prufrock come into my head whenever I see a play by Beckett. There's really only one way to cope with Beckett and this is to listen carefully and enjoy the poetry and the comedy without stopping to work out the meaning. That may come later!

Endgame is not an easy play to perform and I believe this one has had a pretty rough passage but it has emerged triumphant.

Brian Hands plays the blind Hamm with unusual clarity of thought - making total sense of what must be some of the most convoluted speeches in the theatrical cannon. Ian Lilly as Clov has to carry much of the comedy. He has the stage to himself for the first five minutes of the play, performing in dumb show the acts that he obviously does every day, but always come to him as a complete surprise.

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Hamm's two aged parents Nagg and Nell, who have been consigned to two large dustbins where they remain throughout the play, are given the correct combination of pathos and humour. Jackie Skarvellis plays Nell with a sweet sadness, funny and moving in her nostalgia for yesterday. But as she says: "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."

Tony O'Brien's wonderful droll face is perfect for Nagg who constantly tries to amuse with a story that everyone has heard too often. "It is still funny, but we don't laugh any more." Hamm treats him with the utmost contempt.

This is an excellent version of a difficult play acted out with simplicity and clarity. No director is named, but the piece is beautifully lit and designed in monochrome by Richard Newman, with costumes by Nicky Bunch.

The incidental music - a bouncy rendering of Let's All Go To The Music Hall - sets the scene perfectly.

This is a production worth witnessing. Beckett is always intriguing and this is a true and faithful example of his work.

From March 13-31.

Aline Waites

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