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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


  End Game
By Samuel Beckett


New Venture Theatre, Brighton
Directed by Mark Green

On their way to and from their seats the audience at this Brighton Festival Fringe production walk through the wings and almost brush against Clov, propped up like a forgotten broom, his forehead against the back of the set.

There is a shock, of course, at being so close to a character in a play, within touching distance of a fiction. But there is also something chilling about the redundancy of a human being made this explicit. When Clov is on stage, performing repetitive, pointless tasks at the bidding of his master, Hamm, we pity him in his servitude. To see him off-stage, visibly worthless, his life drained of even the vicarious meaning that Hamm gives him, is worse.

In capitalist society most people’s lives are defined by the work they do for others. When you ask a new acquaintance what they ‘do’ they tell you about their job, if they have one. They don’t tell you that they go to the theatre and enjoy a couple of pints afterwards, even though that may be an activity that says more about them.

While Clov’s redundancy is intermittent, the aged Nagg and Nell are permanently discarded, scrapped, literally thrown into dustbins. They have lost even the dignity of parenthood and survive – just – merely as Hamm’s progenitors, despised for bringing him into the world.

As mass redundancy looms, Endgame is given an added political edge by New Venture, making us think about wasted lives. And there’s hope, as there always is in Beckett, hidden in the precise grain of the text.

Nik Hedges gives a remarkable performance as Hamm, playing out an endless endgame, immobile in his chair yet drawing up an energy from somewhere, keeping going like people do, even if they are tough and heartless people.

Sean Williams’ Clov is a shuffling clockwork toy, like Chaplin in Modern Times he is part of the machinery – until his rictus grin flips from being an expression of pain to one of mischief as he finally rebels.

And Paddy O’Keeffe as Nagg Louise Preecy as Nell are an engaging tragi-comic double-act who leave us with a tantalising suggestion that life was once better, and that it could be better again if we give our humanity a chance.

May 16, 2010

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