07 March 2011

Review: The End

The End
Malthouse Theatre presents a Belvoir production
25 February 2011
Beckett Theatre, CUB Malthouse
to 11 March

Samuel Beckett said that "Words are all we have." I'm a word lover and if it weren't for theatre makers, I would have missed too much of Beckett's astonishing writing.

As Coner and Judy Hegarty Lovett showed me the painful bliss of the Beckett's Molloy novels at the 2010 Melbourne International Arts Festival, performer Robert Menzies and director Eamon Flack have convinced me that Beckett's plays are just a hint of his genius.

The novella The End was written in 1946 (originally in French), before Waiting for Godot (1953) and Beckett's Nobel Prize for Literature (1969). His first person storyteller is kicked out of an institution and back on the streets he knows too well. Conned out of his rent money, he heads to the country and finally returns to the suburbs "... beyond the stupid hope of rest or less pain". Beckett's characters are usually in despair, but they show us a light so dim that it's often uncomfortable to laugh – and Beckett wanted us to laugh.

On a bare wooden floor with a cross to mark his place, it's performed as written. Beckett's language is so compelling that the story, for all its drama, can become secondary. Reading Beckett is about the words and language and I don't hear the narrative voice when I read him.  What Menzies's remarkable performance does is turn the wordy narrator in to a character so unforgettable that the words become the music to his story.

Menzies and Flack have created a telling of The End that surpasses the words and creates an experience where the emotion overwhelms the admiration – and the admiration floods in after. This isn't a show to miss.

This review appears on AussieThearte.com

The End is in this book

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