Phil 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.