Arches, Glasgow, Wed 21–Fri 23 Nov, then touring
There are so many expectations attached to Beckett’s masterpiece, be it existential, political, comedic or other in intent, that it’s hard to see how it can be approached without a company being debilitated by the reverence that surrounds the text. However, Robert Rae’s production for Theatre Workshop seems to have overcome these with, on the whole, happy results.
As ever we find our master of the house Hamm (Nabil Shaban) stationary at the centre of a post-apocalyptic hovel, this time designed by Russian avant garde artists Sharmanka. Here he’s not in a decrepit armchair, but an elaborate metallic birdcage, while the endlessly put upon servant Clov (Gary Robson) is not in fact unable to sit down, but in a wheelchair, deceiving Hamm about his capacities. Hamm’s parents Nag (Raymond Short) and Nell (Dolina Maclennan) are also not so much in ashcans as metallic wheely bins.
Rae’s production amounts less to a rewriting of Beckett’s original and much protected script, as a succession of minor changes of nuance, mainly through design, so the relationships in the play still hinge on the paradoxical combination of the repulsion humans feel for each other and their need for company. If there are flaws, they are less around the changes design imposes on the production than the failure to fully utilise these; a mechanical dog sits on the stage, paralleling Hamm’s toy dog, but nothing is really made of it. All the same, there are a couple of big performances from Shaban and Robson, as well as their support, to carry the evening along.