Review: Endgame

in association with Home Manchester
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4th-20th February 2016
3 Stars (3 / 5)

Samuel Beckett is rigorously precise with his stage directions and desires that any production remains faithfully so. It seems like almost nothing is left for the creative team – but, despite a rigid script Endgame leaves amazing room for exploration.

Before an appraisal of Dominic Hill (Artistic Director) and the highly capable cast, theatre designer Tom Piper deserves a worthy mention. How is it possible to compliment a set that is meant to look like “a bare interior”? Yet, Piper’s design, neither painted black nor white, evokes an unexplainable sensation through its walls that keeps one’s eyes fixed on the stage. It is realistic but unspecific, and so unassuming that it does not distract from the onstage action.

However it feels like the entire play moves at the same tempo and carries little variation in intensity for the entire ninety minutes, and becomes rather draggy after a while. The monotonous rhythm ruins the witty dialogue, especially when Clov (Christ Gascoyne) is always irritated and Hamm (David Neilson) is always grumpy. Despite both being written to have an antagonistic relationship and Hamm framed as a very unlikable being, the lack of an emotional journey does not give the play much emotional resonance, apart from Nagg (Peter Kelly) and Nell (Barbara Rafferty). They are a kooky and lovable couple, portrayed with a poised tenderness and distance towards each other. It is pleasurable and stinging to watch, especially when Nagg attempts to make Nell laugh, only to see her wistfully thinking of the lake they almost drowned in the day after they were engaged, having ignored his storytelling.

Endgame is fantastically written. With poignant dialogue, the characters are relateable and representative of profound ideas. They retain very human qualities without becoming caricatures.