Beckett’s Endgame thrills at Home

Endgame is one of Samuel Beckett’s many masterpieces, it’s a play about the end and the thoughts and feelings of four people as the end approaches. Written in the style of absurdism, a tricky style to master, this production directed by Dominic Hill is executed excellently.

Set on a dark dingy stage almost resembling a prison cell, the grey walls provide a sense of darkness with only two small windows that scarcely produce light. The staging resembles an apocalyptic world, as the curtain rises to reveal two bins at the side of the stage and a man sat in a chair covered by a large sheet.

Hamm, played by David Neilson is blind and unable to stand therefore confined to a wheelchair. He orders around his crippled servant Clov played by Chris Gascoyne who lacks the ability to sit and limps around the room completing Hamm’s orders. Their only company being Hamm’s aged parents Nagg and Nel played by Peter Kelly and Barbara Rafferty.

beckett endgame home manchester theatre
David Neilsen and Chris Gascoyne in Endgame

Neilson is outstanding as Hamm, he is vindictive towards his servant Clov and his vicious speeches towards him are powerful as he slowly chips away at his character making Clov feel small and powerless. Despite his lack of ability to move or make eye contact, Neilson’s characterisation is superb as his use of voice skillfully portrays his dominance regardless of being the least able in the room.

Neilson’s relationship with Gascoyne on stage is remarkable, the power struggle is evident although being mutually dependant upon one another. As Gascoyne’s character progresses and his anger enhances he becomes agitated which becomes obvious as sarcasm starts to creep into his dialogue. Gascoyne is a natural comedian, with his exceptional physicality he truely becomes his character from head to toe. During some of the sharper dialogue, he manages to time each word impeccably and has the audience in tears of laughter, however his final soliloquy is formidable and even oddly poignant as his anger and frustration becomes evident.

Nagg (Peter Kelly) and Nel (Barbara Rafferty) are an old couple with an abundance of love and affection towards each other despite their situation being that they are confined to living in bins. They create a lot of light humour in the play, particularly when they break into a cackle of laughter over the simplest of things.

There is a overall shadow of death hanging over the play, however the slapstick comedy in amongst the terror and gloom of their situation lifts the play and makes the audience question how us as humankind would be in this situation if we were to reach our endgame.

You wouldn’t even recognise soapstars Neilson and Gascoyne as their characterisation is utterly brilliant. Hill’s adaptation of the play is fresh, funny and highly thoughtful. Endgame is a play that manages to find light in such a dark situation and there is no doubt Samuel Beckett is a true genius.

Endgame is on at Home until12 March