FIRST LOVE, 5Star*****, Dublin to 16 10.

First Love
by Samuel Beckett
5 STARS *****

O’Reilly Theatre, Belvedere College, Dublin Until October 16th,
Runs 60 mins, No interval.

TICKETS: +353 1 6778439

Review: Anne O’Leary 13th October 2016. 

Simply as powerful as it gets
Theatre performances as minimalist as this one are rare. A single performer and a park bench. That’s it. They don’t come more compelling or brilliant either. The performer is Barry McGovern, long considered as the leading interpreter of Beckett’s work. He is tall, thin, serious looking with a deep voice and a pronounced Dublin accent and he has formed our idea of Beckett through playing his characters for over forty years.

The script does not stray very far from the short story it is based on. Written in the first person it addresses the audience directly, drawing them into the world of a character that resents any intrusion in his life and recounts how after his father’s death he becomes homeless. He meets a prostitute on a park bench and she invites him to stay at her house. Thereafter follows an unromantic alliance, convenient to both parties. He on the lookout for shelter for the oncoming winter, she seeking some resemblance of family life.

McGovern is dressed in a long overcoat which hangs loosely on his thin frame. The suit and leather shoes suggest erudition but it is clear from the start that he has no attachment to the world around him and despises her attempts at friendship. When she announces that she is pregnant he shouts: “abort, abort” and he leaves the house during the birth, although he admits the cries haunt him for the rest of his life.

The performance is so simple it overwhelms. McGovern’s stillness and hesitancy punctuate the story as it switches from comic to tragic to utterly grotesque. His mannerisms and precise movement portray the chilling character’s black humour and determination to remain marginal.

The simple set design by Eileen Diss complements the mood perfectly. At times a faint projection of a Georgian door appears on a dark backdrop and alternates with a small window when the narration is indoors.

A performance such as this can only come from a deep understanding of the text and this commanding actor was awarded with a standing ovation on the night.

Cast: Barry McGovern

Director: Michael Colgan (Gate Theatre)
Set Design: Eileen Diss
Lighting: James McConnell

2016-10-16 15:22:15

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