I had previously only seen Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ which I had modestly enjoyed. Last night I felt it was time to go the theatre with new eyes, to experience the Gate Theatre production of ‘Endgame’. Surely this was a work that needed to be seen in its original form, and not through the medium of a surly, jazz-hands, interpretive dance version.
This latest production was directed by Danya Taymor and has received state funding through the Arts Council and RTE. It stars Frankie Boyle as Hamm – a surly, blind and wheelchair bound man living in a grotty room in a post-apocalyptic world. He is cared for by a limping Clov (Robert Sheehan). Hamm’s parents Nagg and Nell (played by Sean McGinley and Gina Moxley) have no legs and live in a pair of dustbins in the corner. Hamm spends the play insulting and berating Clov, who threatens to leave Hamm, but never does. There are long speeches (it’s ‘an absurdist comedy’). There’s repetition in the lines and the actions – poor Clov is the only character that moves on the stage (Hamm being wheeled about notwithstanding) throughout the play.
I am not a fan of Samuel Beckett. There. I have said it. With the exception of ‘Waiting for Godot’ I find his work dreary, incomprehensible and stupefyingly dull. This may be more a reflection on me, and my lack of intelligence than it is on Beckett. After all the great and the good speak of the playwright in hushed, reverential terms. When I look out my window I see a massive bridge that has been named after him. That’s earned right? Or maybe he has been placed on an intellectual pedestal and to extoll his virtues is to signal ‘Yes, I too am an educated, sophisticated person?’
Why then would I go to see a French, interpretative, modern dance adaptation of ‘Endgame’?
Because I was asked to. As part of the 2021 Dublin Dance Festival, the world renowned Compagnie Maguy Marin was performing ‘May B’, over three nights in the O’Reilly Theatre. Samuel Beckett actually offered his blessing to the dance company for this interpretation.
I didn’t know what to expect. I knew my feelings about Beckett. The expression ‘French, modern-dance interpretation of Endgame by Samuel Beckett’ was chilling. But I was willing to take a chance. There was a chance that it was going to be a pleasant surprise.
In the final weeks of January semi-live theatre is making a comeback in Ireland.
‘The Approach’ by Mark O’Rowe is being performed live at the Project Arts Centre from the 21st to the 24th January. ‘Happy Days’ by Samuel Beckett is being staged on January 30th at the Olympia. The shows will be streamed around the world. The seats in the theatres will remain empty.
I am currently engaged in an internal debate whether or not to get a ticket for either or both shows. I know that the Mark O’Rowe play would be worth seeing – having attended‘Howie the Rookie’ in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght before lockdown last year I was blown away by the performance of Stephen Jones in the title role of an incredible play. It may be blasphemous to say it, but I’d be more reluctant to see the Beckett play. Perhaps I lack the intellectual ability to understand his work? Having seen ‘Waiting for Godot’ in Smock Alley Theatre, I was slightly bewildered at the hype. Samuel Beckett is like the sacred cow of Irish theatre – a lack of appreciation of his work reveals you to be a philistine. I remain ambivalent about him. However ‘Happy Days’ is being performed by Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael to perfection in ‘Derry Girls’ so she’d be the main attraction for this show for me.