Despite the comedic tilt of Danya Taymor’s Endgame, nobody laughed at Hamm’s heavy declaration: “You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.” The performance tightroped between humour and austerity, carefully depicting the concurrent self-pacification and dread of humanity post-catastrophe—a condition that is eerily close to our post-pandemic world and its immediate encounter with invasion, in Ukraine.
The play, written by Samuel Beckett, features four characters each in some way incapacitated, who are confined to a bunker-like room whose outside is “nothing”. They engage in narrative, nostalgia, and linguistic play as a means to both occupy their minds and pass the time. However, these efforts prove ultimately futile against the haplessness of the characters’ existence. This is an end after the end, a relentless elongation of survival. Beckett probes the disintegration of identity, connection, and purpose coterminous to the death of a social world. Whilst what has happened is equivocal, its consequences are clear. Humanity has been reduced to a “static choreography of mutual dependency” within which nothing means anything (Eva Horn).
“The curved floors and slanted walls of the set emphasised both servant Clov’s pain as he limped around, following the constant commands of his master, Hamm—and the sense of confinement of the characters’ existence.”
Taymor remained true to Beckett’s text. The curved floors and slanted walls of the set emphasised both servant Clov’s pain as he limped around, following the constant commands of his master, Hamm—and the sense of confinement of the characters’ existence. Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle emphasised his character Hamm’s resignation through a wearied and humorous expression of his lines, whilst Robert Sheehan, as Clov, tempered his bursts of frustration with self-soothing laughter. Nell and Nagg, two elderly amputees, played by Gina Moxley and Seán McGinley, were confined to dustbins. They move between solitude and brief, useless interactions marked by a desire to enact the impossible past, epitomised in Nell’s sad recollections of “Ah, yesterday!”.
Clov and Hamm’s relationship had less cruelty and friction than that which emerges from a reading of the play, but this made for an interesting sense of connectivity behind the distance inherent in their conversations. Similarly, Nell’s death was played subtly, which served less to efface the moment than to emphasise the perpetuity of human mortality and its insignificance in a world in decline. Clov’s arduous movements were joined by moments of stillness and silence, ultimately including the audience in the performance’s labour.
“Overall, the performance was a faithful but nuanced rendition of Beckett’s original: poignant within our contemporary setting.”
Overall, the performance was a faithful but nuanced rendition of Beckett’s original: poignant within our contemporary setting.