Endgame (Samuel Beckett)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
photographer Daniel James Grant.
He’s like the spirit of malevolence and bitterness: blind, marooned in a chair from which he almost never moves as he dispenses – generously – bile and self-hatred.
He’s not the sort of person anyone would willingly want to befriend. But Clov – played with masterly skill by Kelton Pell – has reserves of patience and compassion that are wildly out of proportion to the constant stream of unpleasantness that issues from Hamm.
Pell is star of the production; his characterisation is wonderfully, and satisfyingly, complete. There’s understated artistry in his every gesture, the slightest semi-sentence. He makes of Clov a man of angelic patience, never for a moment – not even a second – gruff, abrasive, dismissive. His every word and gesture are informed by a quietness – a calmness – that make him the very antithesis of Hamm.
Clov climbs a ladder.(He never sits – anywhere, any time.) He places a foot on the first rung – and waits a while before bringing his other foot to the same rung – and so on. In a sense this typifies Clov – quiet, unhurried, gentle with a near-angelic forbearance.
Despite given every reason to, he NEVER raises his voice. There’s quiet understatement to his every word – the absolute antithesis of the monstrous Hamm., – but although viscerally unpleasant, one cannot help feeling pity for this dreadfully stricken being.
Hamm’s handicaps are awful; his abrasiveness, his virtually complete lack of empathy add to the sheer unpleasantness of the man. But – and this is the crucial question – how many others would act differently to awful Hamm in his dreadful predicament.
Who would uncomplainingly accept blindness and additional incapacity? How many would accept being weighed down by such hideous handicaps? It is so easy to be judgemental – but how many in a similarly awful situation would act differently?
Then there are Nell (Caroline McKenzie) and Nagg (George Shevtsov), both legless, each living in a bin. Although on a much smaller scale, their parts require consistent skill – and on this score, they both deliver wholesale.
This is a five-star offering, much due to first rate direction by Andrew Ross.. I hope it’s seen by thousands. It deserves to be.