Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is going to be a dark and tragic comedy regardless of how it’s portrayed. But the subtle nuances, little looks and comic pauses from the cast performing Endgame at Emporium created a fantastic depiction of it. True to the original it is unrelenting in its bleakness but tamed perfectly with some absurd comedy.
The set is simple but effective – the bare brick walls work perfectly, two small slots for windows, a few barrels and centre-stage – the wheelchair. In this wheelchair sat Hamm, played by Mike Goodenough. Hamm is self-pitying, demanding and loathsome, and like the King on a chess-board, must remain right in the centre, protected and moved by his son, Clov. Goodenough has a booming voice that commands the stage, perfect for a character that demands so much from the few people around him.
Played by Duncan Drury, Clov is the resentful son that does everything Hamm demands of him. Much of Clov’s persona is physical and Drury does a fantastic job of remaining upright and stiff, like a pawn, and only following certain patterns around the stage. His terrifying laugh makes him sound borderline insane and his empty looks to the audience as he questions his loyalty and his existence are extremely convincing. He even questions Hamm: “What have I got to keep me here?” to which Goodenough very quickly replies as Hamm: “The dialogue.” Stuck in a loop of questioning, wanting to leave and being called back, Clov and Hamm’s co dependency is portrayed excellently by Goodenough and Drury.
Nagg and Nell are Hamm’s parents – barrel-bound and wistful. Nagg is played by Rory McCallum and Nell by Bridget Mastrocola, who’s eyes only seem to be looking into the past. From her vacant gaze to her insane laugh, Mastrocola plays the role perfectly, rising from the barrel with a ghost-like quality.
The boom of Goodenough’s voice and the quick timing from Drury create a narrative that flows well and keeps the audience interested in a play that can sometimes be a little slow – particularly with the repetition of certain acts like Clov moving the ladder to look out of the windows, and pushing Hamm around the room.
The cast really captured the combination of the bleak story with an inevitable ending and the physical, absurd comedy of it perfectly. No one performer stole the show, the casting was done incredibly well.
Endgame is certainly worth going to see and it is at the Emporium until the 10th May. Get your tickets here.