What? World

This is Beckett gone wrong, writes SHELBY WHYATT.

Beckett daniel henry kaes shelby whyatt

Pembroke New Cellars, 23-27th October, 7pm, £5/6

Dir. Daniel Henry Kaes

I entered Pembroke Cellars to find a dishevelled woman repeatedly shooting a toy gun at her head.  A jar of formaldehyde containing a severed hand lay on a cluttered desk.  ‘FUCK THE JUVENILES!’ was scrawled on the blackboard-backdrop to this post-apocalyptic dystopia.  It looked like we were in for a pretty intense couple of hours.

Suddenly, the lights went down and a disembodied voice rang out from the loudspeaker: ‘I’m coming for you.  I will …ize you.’  The blackboard which stood stage-left stated that my four options for filling the gap were ‘euthanize’, ‘summarize’, ‘bastardize’ and ‘sodomize’.  By this point, I was bloody terrified.

But, sadly, I needn’t have been. What Aandrasdan-Banach and Kaes described as a ‘fast paced and witty new tragicomedy’ actually just turned out to be a regurgitation of the old. Admittedly, the pair claim to have adopted ‘the techniques of Beckett’.  However, it reached the point where I began to wonder if ‘What? World’ was intended as some sort of parody. This, in my book, is taking it a step too far.

Putting aside the subjugated figure wearing a leash (‘Waiting for Godot’, anyone?) and the concept of a tense, yet interdependent, relationship played out against a post-apocalyptic backdrop (did someone say ‘Endgame’?), its real downfall is the dialogue. The onslaught of philosophical references were an irritating distraction from the domestic tension at the heart of the play.  Call me an obtuse English fresher if you will, but they just felt a little contrived.

To their credit, Seb Sutcliffe and Christabel Clark wrestled admirably with what they were given, presenting an image of a troubled marriage which was at times both moving and funny.  The script, however, was too clever for its own good, drowning out what could have proved a poignant social commentary in its desperation to be ‘witty’.

Despite straying away from Beckett-territory, the second half was even more frustrating.  Depression, euthanasia, procreation, relationship dynamics – too many issues were raised and none discussed with any real purpose.  The overabundance of blackouts didn’t help – merely presenting the second act as a series of unconnected events.  When not overtly emulating Beckett, the writers seemed incapable of finding a firm grounding, attacking a range of disparate topics in an entirely confused manner.

‘I can’t help feeling like we’ve done this before,’ said Clark at the play’s conclusion. Well, yes – we have. And it’s a shame.