Lesser known Beckett trilogy shines afresh

Joe Ayre in Act Without Words I. Picture: Alex Fine

Joe Ayre in Act Without Words I. Picture: Alex Fine - Credit: Archant

Three short plays by samuel beckett

old red lion


Director Sara Joyce and designer Charlie Marie Austin offer the capacity (predominantly young) audience a stark, battleship grey stage to be used, almost seamlessly, for this Beckett trilogy.

Act Without Words I is almost 60 years old and is as enigmatic now as when first performed at the Royal Court. A man on an island is lured by a carafe of water, suspended just out of his reach. Items are lowered on ropes and, prompted by whistles, he tries to grab the water.

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Performed by Joe Eyre with robust physicality and intensity, a specially written soundtrack by Greg Carradine drives the action. Carradine’s music is excellent with echoes of Philip Glass but occasionally tends to dominate.

The central characters Bertran (Eyre) and Morvan (Bryan Moriarty) in Rough for Theatre II are apparently bureaucrats who have been sent to help Croker (the ledge teetering Dominic Grove) decide whether to jump from a high window. To me, they seem more like angels as they discuss Croker’s life depositions and, in doing so, swing from the surreal to the downright comic. Moriarty’s timing is spot on and, with perhaps an over-enthusiastic contingent in the audience, generated lots of laughter.

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The final work, Catastrophe, is dedicated to the then-imprisoned Vaclav Havel and first performed in 1982. Some see it as a political play and an allegory of totalitarianism. Three on-stage characters consist of the autocratic, fur collared, cigar chomping Director (Moriarty), the Assistant (played in white by the ridiculously talented Kate Kennedy) and The Protagonist: Dominic Grove again having a non- speaking, virtually motionless role as an art work being manipulated on the whim of the director. Hats off to him – he still manages to generate humour.

These are not the best known of Beckett’s works but award winning Irish theatre company Whispering Beasts has done a cracking professional job reviving and presenting them to a new audience.

Until 25th April

David Winskill

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