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A CurtainUp London Review
Endgame and Rough for Theatre II

"Yes, yes, it'sthe most comical thingin the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will,in the beginning. But it's alwaysthe same thing.Yes, it's likethe funny story we have heard too often, we still findit funny,but wedon't laughanymore."
— Nell
Endgame and Rough for Theatre II
Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe in Rough for Theatre II
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
It is an interesting combination to stage the 30 minute fragment Rough for Theatre II with Endgame at the Old Vic with Richard Jones directing. The last Endgame I saw was directed by the Old Vic's current Artistic Director Matthew Warchus with the great Michael Gambon and physical comedian Lee Evans ( review).

I am not the kind of theatregoer who likes to wallow in existentialism or who is stimulated by the 1950s theatre of the absurd. I can see the importance of Beckett to the history of drama but I fall into the body of those unable to see the Emperor's new clothes. One imagines the usual audience for a Beckett play to be the cognoscenti, the literati, the French and students of theatre of all ages but what we have at the Old Vic is very different.

The difference lies with the casting. Even though the last Harry Potter film was made in 2011, Daniel Radcliffe's following has not diminished. Those still at school in 2001 are now in their 20s and 30s and come to see their fictional and filmic hero. This audience giggled at the four letter words, mostly coming from Alan Cumming in the first play Rough for Theatre II. They laughed at Radcliffe's physical antics in Endgame as portraying Clov with an ambulant disability, he struggles up and down a ladder, coming down in a kind of slide which made us all smile.

Daniel Radcliffe demonstrates that he can do physical comedy and the Old Vic audience is paying to see him. Whether they will expend so much on another Beckett play might also depend on a star casting like Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot. I am reminded that Alan Cumming, here as Hamm, has been seen many more times on Broadway than he has in the West End and I wonder whether the producers have Broadway in mind for this production.

The ultimate in minimalistic Granny Annexes is the two dustbins in Endgame housing Jane Horrocks as Nell and Karl Johnson as Nagg, the aged white faced provocateurs. Incidentally my daughter in law tells me that Granny is a derogatory term in the United States whereas in the UK it is the standard diminutive for Grandmother.

I was more interested in Rough for Theatre II with Radcliffe as A, Cumming as B and Jackson Milner as C whom we see as an outline standing in a window. In the style of the existentialist, both Endgame and the fragmentary play are about how to end one's life without the help of "Dignitas" the Swiss Euthanasia facility. The tension in Beckett's play Endgame is about the master servant where blind Hamm is requesting Clov's assistance.

In Rough for Theatre II C is on the verge of jumping to his death and A and B weigh up his life by reading documents which contain statements from people who knew C. A and B could be heavenly civil servants deciding which place we might go.

Do let me know if Daniel Radcliffe drew you to these plays at the Old Vic and you are now determined to see more by Samuel Beckett?

There is a brilliant video on the old Vic website about the play where Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe guess which quotes are Beckett and which are Eeyore from Christopher Robin by AA Milne. You Tube: Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe Beckett or Eeyore.

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Endgame and Rough for Theatre II
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Richard Jones
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming
With: Jackson Milner
Designer: Stewart Laing
Movement Director: Sarah Fahle
Lighting Design: Adam Silverman
Sound Designer: Fergus O'Hare
Running time: One hour 35 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7628
Booking to 28th March 2020
Principal Partner Royal Bank of Canada
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 6th February 2020 at the Old Vic, The Cut, London SE1 8NB (Rail/Tube: Waterloo)
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