ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
by Tim Newns
Mark Rylance's powerful and intriguing Hamm both captivates and impresses with a performance that edges to the point of self-satisfaction but ultimately drives the production through. Simon McBurney plays Clov, Hamm's manservant in an almost robotic manner. Clov seems to represent the only fraction of hope left in this dismal universe and McBurney plays with our emotions throughout the production. The accuracy and architecture of his movements and timing are slick and benevolent and I was forever alongside in the frustration of his mundane routines.
The most exciting and exquisite aspect of the production is the casting and combination of Tom Hickey as Nagg and the wonderfully superb Miriam Margolyes as Nell. Their relationship helps to instil in the play a sense of a past world that has plummeted into this misery-fuelled universe. The story about a past boat trip in Lake Como was perhaps the high point in the production. Margolyes and Hickey look suitably surreal and absurd and one is truly touched when it becomes clear Nell will not be reappearing from her bin. Margolyes's timing and the construction of her performance is a master class in Beckett.
One of the production's minor flaws is the pace. Although McBurney's direction has succeeded in creating an absurd and engrossing world, the overall pace of the production is often jilted. The pauses, which in Beckett are as important as any of the dialogue, are often over played. With the running time at a long hour and forty-five minutes without interval these perhaps need to be more condensed.
Paul Anderson's lighting design is functional and grim ensuring an almost sewer like atmosphere in which these folk live out the rest of their purposeless existence. Sound design was perhaps not used to its full potential. An obvious choice of low murmurs and drones welcomed and ended the play. Tim Hatley's set design has an enormous brick walled surrounding which succeeds in both creating an endless domain yet keeping an odd sense of claustrophobia.
Perhaps the most challenging objective with staging Beckett in the West End is to create a production that doesn't just appeal to the industry elite but also to the regular theatregoer. This production, despite all the doom and gloom, does just that providing an entertaining and compelling evening at the Duchess Theatre.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.