A few weeks ago I went to the Old Vic Theatre in London to watch Samuel Beckett’s plays Endgame and Rough for Theatre ll performed on stage! It makes me sad that I’m publishing this post now, at a time when theatres are now shutting due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it makes me feel even more grateful for getting the chance to see this show before it was cancelled.
I’ve been a fan of Beckett’s writing for a few years now – ever since I first read his play Krapp’s Last Tape in my first year of uni. Since then, I’ve read Waiting for Godot and am making my way through his collection of works.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Samuel Beckett, his plays are absurd and most of the time, do not make sense! But that’s what makes them so great. Both Waiting for Godot and Endgame have a distinct repetitive element (although majority of his plays do) where a few characters converse as they remain within one setting – life outside that setting equivalent to death. If I had to describe Beckett’s writing in one sentence I would say it is a crazy philosophical rambling about both the mundane and the emotional depth of life simultaneously. In other words, it presents meaning in the meaningless.
An empty room with two high up small windows. Hamm (who is blind and unable to stand) converses with his servant, Clov (who is unable to sit). Hamm’s parents, at unexpected intervals, pop their heads out of the two dustbins where they live.
Rough for Theatre ll Overview:
Two characters enter an apartment to find a person standing over an open window, presumably about to jump. They carry out an investigation, discussing whether they think he should take his own life or not.
As you can see, the plays are very simplistic in terms of plot – there isn’t really any plot!
Watching Endgame and Rough for Theatre ll on stage was a totally different experience to reading the plays from a book. Personally, I find it hard to interpret the comedy through reading Beckett’s writing, but on the stage the comedy came to life. I think part of the reason why was when I saw it in front of me, I realised how absurd it really was, in the same way that a lot of things seem more extreme when they happen in real life, than when you think them inside your head. For example, the parents poking their heads out of dustbins in Endgame – I already knew it was weird, but seeing it live was a whole different experience!
I think what made the play so good was the exceptional acting. Alan Cummings, who played Hamm in Endgame, portrayed the character in such an insanely intriguing way. It reminded me a lot of James McAvoy in the film Split, only because he equally portrayed this mad personality that had so many distinct intricacies that it was amazing he managed to pull off all the mannerisms so consistently and with so much depth. Alongside him, was Daniel Radcliffe playing Hamm’s servant, Clov. His role was very physically demanding in that his character walked funny, with legs that weren’t quite working properly, and had to keep climbing up and down a step ladder. How they both managed to remember all their lines and keep up with their roles, considering they were on stage for about an hour and a half without any breaks, still amazes me.
Overall, I really enjoyed seeing Beckett’s plays come to life on the stage. I think reading something and then seeing it live or as a film is always such a meaningful moment, especially when it’s something you found interesting or really resonated with. If you’re reading this Dad, thank you so much for taking me!
Have you read anything by Samuel Beckett?
Would you like to see his plays on stage?
Let me know in the comments!
You can find me on social media here: