FIRST LOVE To 5 December.


by Samuel Beckett

Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 13 December 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 November.

Compelling performance of a telling story.
Samuel Beckett’s story took 28 years to be rewritten and published from its origins in the mid-1940s. Things that might have once made it strange as a piece for performance – the downbeat nature of the love story, which makes the title ironic, and the monologue it becomes on stage, are now par for any dramatic course.

Beckett’s productions of his plays required severe austerity, with no vocal colourings or unnecessary action. Accordingly, Conor Lovett works through Beckett’s typical micro-detail of situations, defining precisely what is meant in a way both comic and reductive in its insistence on the mundane.

But as Lovett flatly creates acceptance of situations and events, without morality or surprise, his hesitations and irregular pacing build a kind of unassertive individuality. He walks inconsequentially on, and starts speaking. He has no reason for being in what is presumably a park – for that’s where events began – though the set consists simply of two angled bench-like seats. At one point these are levelled by the speaker, but then put back, unused, as before. When he’s said what he has to say he goes.

Judy Hegarty Lovett’s production for Ireland’s Gare St Lazare theatre company doesn’t seek to provide a reason for him arriving, speaking or leaving – the latter happens suddenly, as if he’s just realised he has no more to say. His existence has no context, and he is no more a part of society than the central figures would be in Waiting for Godot a few years later.

Though the memories here are a single, continuous story; the meeting in the park with a prostitute Lulu (aka Anna), then staying at her home. Moments of mime are as functional as the tone of voice is neutral, even over comic details such as holding the stewing-pot (described in detail) which she offers for night-time emergencies.

In his deadpan delivery Lovett recalls the manner of Beckett’s favourite silent comedian, Buster Keaton (whom the author chose for the protagonist of his Film). In such ways comedy of the ridiculous and embarrassing melds with (if there is such a thing) unsentimental pathos.

Performer: Conor Lovett.

Director: Judy Hegarty Lovett.
Lighting: Simon Bennison.
Assistant lighting: Nia Wood.

2014-11-27 11:01:28

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