In her memoir Must You Go?, Antonia Fraser records an exchange between her husband Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett in Paris in 1984. ‘Pinter to Beckett after talking for some time about politics: ‘I’m sorry, Sam, if I sound very gloomy.’ Beckett to Pinter: ‘Oh, you couldn’t be more gloomy than I am, Harold.’ Fraser adds: ‘Exactly the sort of dialogue people would imagine the two masters having when alone.’
Gloom and obscurity are hallmarks of Beckett whose play Endgame is to receive remarkable double exposure with two surprisingly concurrent productions, one opening in Melbourne at MTC on March 21 and the other in Sydney at STC on March 31. Endgame, written and first performed in French, premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1957, was translated into English by Beckett himself for a performance in Paris in the 60s! Endgame may be about the end of the world or a single death or suicide. It is ambiguous and enigmatic; about endings, about finishes. Its opening words are: ‘Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished.’ It’s also funny.
Effective performance of this play is dependent on rhythm, pace and style. These two productions should be well served; Melbourne’s directed by Sam Strong and STC’s by Andrew Upton. Casting is uniformly top order; at MTC Colin Friels plays the lead, the dictatorial Humm.
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