ENDGAME: By Samuel Beckett. Directed by Sylvaine Strike with Andrew Buckland, Rob van Vuuren, Antoinette Kellerman and Soli Philander. Costumes: Birrie le Roux. Set and lighting design: Patrick Curtis. Baxter.
KAREN RUTTER reviews
It’s very tempting to get all thinky about Samuel Beckett. Not to mention throwing about a few in-house jokes to show you geddit. Like – nothing happens in Endgame. See – I just did it, right there.
But while Beckett’s work gives the impression that it’s just dying to be deconstructed, one also gets the sneaky feeling that this could be a theatrical feint, a false lead. And what is actually required is that an audience takes the work as it comes, in one big, outrageous gulp; that it is the ludicrous whole that needs to be swallowed.
This is the sense one gets when experiencing Endgame, Beckett’s surreal and chilling take on a dystopian world. Written over 60 years ago it is still shockingly relevant, a power play between two broken fools – one who can’t stand, one who can’t sit – on an endless, disturbing loop. The sole interruption – by two legless characters sitting in dustbins – brings neither relief nor elucidation, but further adds to the overall atmosphere of futility.
All of which could make one feel dreadfully gloomy about the world, which was probably Beckett’s intention. But he also had a quirky sense of humour, and so Endgame is additionally a bizarre comedy, a steampunkish farce.
And with the Baxter’s dream team on this production, it also becomes an exceptional theatrical force.
Director Sylvaine Strike sticks to the book here (she has to – those were Beckett’s strict instructions, not to deviate from his stage directions), and in doing so, delivers a polished gem. And what a cast to work with. Andrew Buckland as the blind Hamm in his Heath Robinson wheelchair, a curious mix of violence and vulnerability; Rob van Vuuren, in possibly one of his best roles I have personally seen to date, as the ducking, diving Clov; and in smaller but no less engaging parts (restricted to bobbing out of dustbins), a mewling Soli Philander as Nagg and a potent Antoinette Kellerman as Nell.
Endgame is not easy watching – it’s demanding, it’s intense, it’s disturbing on many levels. But it’s also rewarding theatre because of these very factors, and you’re very unlikely to catch a better version of this work in South Africa, I’d stick my neck out to say. And yes – nothing really happens, if you want to see it that way. But it’s worth it.