Arts Festival Review: The End

By Paul Simei-Barton

The End. Photo / Supplied
The End. Photo / Supplied

Over the past 18 months Auckland theatre goers seem to have fallen into the grip of a Beckett craze - an appetite that might initially have been stimulated by envy at the rapturous reports from Wellington on Ian McKellen's performance in Waiting for Godot.

Whatever the case may be, there has recently been a steady stream of local productions of the lesser-know plays, and now the internationally acclaimed Gare St Lazare Players are serving up intriguing adaptations of a couple of Beckett's more obscure prose works.

The End gently seduces the audience into connecting with the experience of a world-weary narrator set on withdrawing from any kind of engagement with the world.

His downward spiral begins with his expulsion from a charitable institution and takes us through the relative comfort of a basement dwelling that comes with a daily delivery of food and a clean chamber pot.

A brief sojourn in a nicely arranged cave leads onto begging in the street, sleeping rough while ravaged by lice and the final indignity of having to devise ways to avoid being eaten by rats.

The bleakness of the tale is counterbalanced by meticulous attention to detail, a wry sense of humour and a highly developed appreciation of the poetry ofdesolation.

Conor Lovett's mesmerising performance comes with an endearing Irish accent that challenges the common perception of Beckett as a European writer.

This Irish sensibility is most evident in the play's humour. There is more than a touch of the blarney as the narrator throws up a range of wonderfully inventive though not completely logical arguments for avoiding eviction.

A similar regional inflection enlivens a detailed account of the etiquette of begging in which patient forbearance results in the design of the perfect apparatus for begging which thoughtfully takes account of the alms-giver's natural aversion to stooping and tossing coins.

By conveying a distinctively Irish expectation of misery, the performance creates enough distance for a wickedly ironic commentary on the exact nature of the narrator's misfortune.

The effect is often both poignant and hilarious.

Where: Herald Theatre, until March 19.

- NZ Herald

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