by Samuel Beckett.
Barbican (Frobisher Theatre 2) Silk Street EC2Y 8D To 8 June 2015.
7 June 4.30pm & 7.30pm.
8 June 6.30pm.
Runs 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7638 8891.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 June.
Brief, bleak and beautiful.
Arrive early; it might be a Beckett-like joke that it takes almost as long to find your way to this remote region of the Barbican and return, as the performance of Samuel Beckett’s prose work Lessness.
One of its repeated words is “endlessness”, which loses one of its ends in forming the title. The writing is both terse and musical (experimental music, with opportunities for randomness, was apparently one of its inspirations). Short verbal motifs recur like musical themes in a piece which, in Olwen Fouéré’s performance, comes over as a series of brief phrases that could make a collection of telegrams or text messages sound loquacious.
Reference to a compact, upright body with beating heart recurs within a void of black, grey and ashes; life somehow maintains itself somehow amid this bleak environment.
Fouéré’s separation of phrases from Beckett’s longer, image-clogged sentences is a necessity for audiences following a performance. Beckett himself demanded plainness in his actors’ delivery, with no inauthentic colouring added to his landscapes.
Her performance achieves this as much as anybody could, given the necessity for understanding. It’s complemented by a production where the performer sits at a simple desk, an angled-lamp by her side, speaking the piece. Only a small cine-screen behind with suggestions of a basic pattern waving up it, and a low, constant aural throb – barely detectable – complement any sense of existence in the script.
The performer’s voice is alienated by coming through a sound system. In this small auditorium – more lecture theatre or cinema space than theatre in the conventional sense – it’s not a matter of amplification but a sense of alienation from the still, white-haired figure sitting in front of us. As images occur, intertwine, are repeated to exist in new, puzzling relationships with each other, the impact can be like floating in space – a body in an alien, and endless environment.
Yet the sense of disorientation is challenged by a calm as Fouéré’s voice continues on its path. The ordering, if not the meaning, of life becomes what is written, what is spoken with scrupulous control, as less becomes more.
Performer: Olwen Fouéré.
Conception/Staging/Design: Olwen Fouéré, Kellie Hughes, Sarah Jane Sheils.
Music: Phil Niblock.
Presented by the Barbican. Produced by TheEmergencyRoom and Galway International Arts Festival in association with Cusack Projects Limited. Supported by Culture Ireland.