'Nothing is funnier than unhappiness' could have been written by the heretical psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. That Samuel Beckett got there fifty years ago is but one instance of his prescience. Beckett celebrates the irrational necessity of hope and comments on its unavoidable disappointment in 'Waiting for Godot'. 'Endgame' is perhaps the opposite pole, located where habit has replaced hope and custom become not so much stale as rotten.
We are in a world where catastrophe, natural or man-made, has driven Beckett's characters to shelter in some form of bunker, where blind and immobile Hamm (Nabil Shaban) relies on Clov (Garry Robson), while Hamm's parents, Nagg (Raymond Short) and Nell (Dolina Maclellan) remain largely hidden in baskets. Supplies are running low and Clov becomes increasingly mutinous as Hamm's demands on him multiply.
In the nineteen sixties, the late Charles Schultz published a cartoon collection, 'Happiness is a Warm Puppy'. The monstrous Hamm seeks reassurance and validation from Clov, who proffers a knitted dog in one of his efforts to placate Hamm's devouring ego.
of yarn is about the only warm (if not alive) object on Sharmanka's technologically kinetic set. Hamm, all overgrown infantile ego, posturing in lordly fashion from his gilded cage over the half-lives around him remains oblivious to the demands and realities of these other lived experiences. Beckett's hell is not so much other people as the ignorance (in both senses) of our behaviour toward one another.
The lean spareness of Beckett's texts open them to varieties of interpretation; however, the devil, as with any play, lies
in the detail of production and performance. This production of 'Endgame' feels
not so much a game of two halves as one of two interpretations. There's solid
playing from Garry Robson as Clov, although one longed for signs of the
direction which would give his performance greater flight and trajectory. Raymond
Short as Nagg and Dolina Maclennan as Nell make brave fists of their characters,
but although there are clearly lights blazing within, too often it felt that
any presiding genius was hiding in the shrubbery.
Any production of a Samuel Beckett play is
interesting; like a poetry anthology, at least as much for what is left out as
for what remains in. Beckett's work is neither dense nor obscurely allusive,
and it is frequently undeniably funny. Often, it is far more than funny, it's
absolutely joyous, and it's this sense of joy, shining even (and perhaps
especially) in darkest corners, which is somehow missing from this production.
Bill Dunlop November 2007
Published on EdinburghGuide.com 2007