Wearied Theatre Editor KIERAN CORCORAN can’t stand a play which can’t stand.

bats Beckett Endgame Fitzpatrick Hall kieran corcoran mainshow Queens'

Queens’ Fitzpatrick Hall, 15th-19th February, 7.30pm, £5-6

Directed by Celine Lowenthal


‘Will you ever finish?’… ‘Let it end!’
These are the kind of lines Endgame throws out. They’re begging to be turned into put-downs by a sardonic reviewer, but the play really doesn’t deserve it.
Nor does it deserve unadulterated slander – it does a lot of things right. In fact, the things it does right it does so right that it ends up shooting itself in the foot. Both feet even. After about an hour it’s struggling to stand.

Endgame is remorseless and bleak. Rusty browns, dried-scab reds and dusty greys coat the walls and costumes in a parched and irradiated world. Ever-buzzing Fitzpat speakers proved the perfect background, accidental or otherwise. The all-encompassing aesthetic of despair was inhabited convincingly by the actors, who didn’t balk at the silence and stillness required of them. The frantic, loud-thumping limp of Clov (Fred Maynard), the only character not rooted to the spot, provided a poignant contrast to his immobile peers, while also serving as a clunkily hollow soundtrack.

Photographs by Will Seymour

While Celine Lowenthal’s conception is powerful and well-realised, it is also utterly enervating to watch. I loved the first forty minutes or so, but then my strength failed. The farther Endgame drew me in, the less able I was to take another step, until I finished as exhausted and unable to stand as most of the characters. Some will argue that this is precisely the point; that it means the performance had successfully communicated that sense of pervading ennui that is so central to the piece.

Phrased like that it sounds marvellous, and would probably get a tick from my supervisor. But while it may be a triumph of something, it isn’t a triumph of theatre, since the end result was that I spent a long time not wanting to be there. My plus-one (natsci, admittedly) had genuinely fallen asleep after an hour or so – I never strayed so close to the edges of oblivion, but the play’s latter half was gruelling. While the stultification and grinding repetition underlined the monotony of the characters’ existences, it far exceeded my capacity to take any pleasure in it. I don’t think my reaction is unique either.

There were moments of pathos, moments of humour; but the gaping silences in between were unbearable. Bin-dwellers Nag (Will Chappell) and Nell (Hannah Malcolm) were highlights. Ridiculous and pitiable at the same time, their interactions were the most active and engaging of the play, despite the aged feebleness aptly sustained by both. Their lamentably short stage-time bolstered the number of bodies on-stage, and here the proliferation of talent allowed the performance to take a stand against its self-professed poverty. But these were minor stirs from a play which largely remains comatose.

Endgame is the kind of thing people will pretend they’ve enjoyed because saying so gives them an air of profundity. Or because it’s Beckett and they feel obliged. Some may genuinely enjoy it – they have greater endurance than I do. If you are this sort of person my review won’t put you off going. However, I think that for most this play is a step too far, throwing up more than enough barriers and obstacles to make itself wearying to watch, and ultimately inaccessible.