Review – Endgame, Duchess Theatre

Wednesday 7 October 2009

endgamePhil is taking to religion, believing there could possibly be a God.

Even stranger, Phil has another new perspective on the universe: that Andrew is a star twinkling brighter than any luminary treading the West End stage. Yes, it’s too much to take in, won’t last very long and you can be certain Andrew will milk this one.

The reason for this curious state of mind? Andrew rang Phil on Tuesday morning sounding as if something very, very terrible had happened. Was Too Close To The Sun being revived? No. Andrew was mumbling in a quite unnecessarily apologetic tone, “It turns out I didn’t book the tickets for the interminably long and almost  universally derided pig’s ear that is Mother Courage at the National Theatre after all.”

Having thought themselves doomed to seeing at least the first act that evening, the effect was quite astonishing. Phew! Phil’s mood lifted instantly. His metaphorical sun came out as he experienced more relief than a Swedish massage parlour. It turned out that both Whingers had been dreading it. Phil wondered why he’d agreed in the first place and Andrew had even been trying to give the (non existent) tickets away. Unsurprisingly there were no takers.

Hence they ended up at the Duchess Theatre watching Endgame instead. But to replace an evening’s Brecht with an evening’s Beckett is surely an Olympian Whingerian jump out of the frying pan and into the proverbial?

And, well, to be honest at 105 minutes it was much longer than we had expected this one act-er to be (Andrew had 80 minutes in his head as the result of an Internet search). But the Whingers were well compensated by the knowledge that as they sat down for a post-play snifter, the poor saps at the National Theatre were just crawling towards their interval, their spirits broken and probably sobbing too.

Instead, the Whingers got to watch one of their few contemporary male theatrical heroes Mark Rylance (still sporting his Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron moustache) sitting in what looks to be a very uncomfortable position indeed and occasionally sounding a bit like John Cleese.

Given that Beckett is pretty obscure there are some tricky lines to get through and in a less successful production lines such as “Have you not had enough?” might have elicited some waggish Too Close To The Sun type comments from the audience. But the Whingers found it surprisingly watchable, although their minds wandered at times onto the chair-bound Rylance’s freely swinging legs which became a matter of great debate over the post show snifter. Were they fake? Are his legs tucked up under him inside the chair for the 105 minutes? The Whingers decided they were. How does he do it? What if he gets cramp? The Whingers are even more in awe of Rylance now.

In case you are hazy about which Beckett play is which, Endgame (or Waiting For Richard Briars To Come On, as it’s now called) is the one with two people poking up out of dustbins. Happily, one of those two people is Miriam Margolyes who isn’t on (up?) for very long but is wonderful and is almost forgiven for being in Wicked! It also features Tom Hickey and the director, Complicite‘s Simon McBurney.

And they are all excellent. Top notch performances, a lovely set from Tim Hatley (including a squeaky swing door – how do they make things squeaky in the theatre? Do they have to wait for them to get old? Or is there some kind of trick?) and some very atmospheric lighting from Paul Anderson. If you have to go to see a production of Endgame then this is probably about as good a one as you could possibly choose. Even in the soporific gloom, Andrew (who hasn’t slept will since arriving back from Jordan, his dreams now being permanently occupied by choking, rustling plastic bags) hardly nodded off at all. On the occasions that he did he was woken by the play’s alarm clock. That Samuel Beckett thought of everything.

5 Responses to “Review – Endgame, Duchess Theatre”

  1. Latecomer Says:

    This was great wasn’t it. I loved the story telling bit with all the different beginnings…great production and didn’t feel like a preview.

  2. Abragante Says:

    I am desolate. I’ve been waiting for weeks for our heroes to review “Mother Courage”. Can you not be persuaded to do the decent thing?

  3. sandown Says:

    “Mother Courage” is a must-see for all collectors of truly bad theatrical productions. (Although I believe that Fiona Shaw no longer does a pole-dance round the flagpole of her cart, more’s the pity.)

    Perhaps the Whingers could just take in the first half, which is only two hours long? And then pop next door at the National to experience another tedious left-wing propaganda piece, “The Power of Yes”, which clocks in at two hours overall. The title of which may be taken to mean “Yes, No Interval”.

    England expects …


  4. ENDGAME was great. I was also intrigued by Rylance’s legs and was impressed. I don’t think they were fake. He’s a great actor and he’s very committed to his characters, so I’m not at all surprised by how intense his performance was.

    I want to see ENDGAME again…


  5. […] tragicomic poise” made it “utterly compelling.” Another said it was “suprisingly watchable,” featuring “top-notch performances” from excellent actors. Still another said […]


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