Just sometimes, the best of amateur companies come up with a production which puts in the shade all those numerous Fringe productions with pretentions to ‘professionalism’ put on by out-of-work drama graduates and thespian bottom-feeders. “Endgame”, in the Tower Theatre’s blisteringly good presentation, captures every flicker, every nuance in the mysterious relationship between Hamm and Clov.
Hamm is blind and cannot walk; Clov cannot sit down. Nell and Nagg, Hamm’s parents whom he summons in memory, dwell inside a couple of bespoke coalbunkers, obsessed with food as the very old often are. The whole thing – it can hardly be described as action – takes place in a claustrophic ill-lit interior which traps the protagonists as surely as they trap each other in their symbiotic games.
Games are important. They’re in the title, after all. Beckett has a kind of lugubrious playfulness, as characters play jokes on each other to fill in the time while waiting for the end – mortality barely kept at bay. People tend to forget how funny Beckett can be; Ian Hoare (Hamm) and Andy Murton (Clov) are not afraid of getting the laughs – no false reverence here. But they can turn on a dime to face the abyss and plunge you into pessimistic melancholy in an instant.
Beckett said of Joyce, “His writing is not about something; it is that something itself.” Director Roger Beaumont quotes this in his programme note, and has clearly taken it to heart. Wisely he gets the actors not to play the themes, or the characters, but the lines themselves, in all their rich demanding quicksilver detail. It is an exercise in the most ferocious concentration. He is well-served in particular by a barnstorming performance from Hoare, whose interrupted monologue sustains most of the play. Vocally very well-equipped and with a face on which every passing shade registers, he delivers a performance which if there was any justice would be up for awards. He is ably supported by Andy Murton who is a fine physical clown. Music hall is not far below the surface in Beckett’s work, and these two make a great double act.
“Endgame” deserves a far longer run than it’s getting here, and I hope the company are looking to take it elsewhere. In case they aren’t, you have until Saturday.