NOT I / FOOTFALLS / ROCKABY: Samuel Beckett
Runs: 55m, no interval
Birmingham Rep till 20 09 14
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 17 09 14
If you get chance to see this, run and buy your ticket now.
Samuel Beckett, in these very short, but far from small, plays, encapsulates a universe of suffering. The pain virtually tears through you as you watch them; the outlook is bleak, but the humanity, strangely is warm. And in Lisa Dwan’s exquisite performances this is an event to be savoured for a long time.
Beckett conjures up a hellish world; a world in which people (women in this case) are unremittingly required to talk, confess, live or just exist. Their existence is an endless repetition of spoken memory, of the almost meaningless minutiae of life, of a longing for an ending. Only in Rockaby does the woman achieve her release; in Footfalls she estimates her age to be 90 or 89, to be told by her mother she’s 40; ‘Is that all?’ she asks, her voice exhausted with the effort of empty existence.
The evening gets off to an astonishing start in Not I. A woman (only her mouth is dimly seen) barks out what seems to be some kind of testimony or confession. Dwan’s speed is astounding, but it’s her ability to colour her voice at one moment with beautiful melody, at the next sink instantaneously to almost a growl, then spit out a cruel and mirthless laugh that holds our attention. Totally mesmerising.
In the next two, Dwan creates for us women measuring out pointless lives, tortured by the meaninglessness and the endless repetition. We are truly enabled to share the pain.
The whole is well linked by the sounds of a barren landscape, while we sit in complete darkness (even exit lights are out.)
This is a very special performance. At the close of the performance I attended, an audience member loudly declaimed at the end: ‘Load of pretentious rubbish.’ Good to know Beckett can still bite; as for the comment – I simply couldn’t disagree more.
Performer: Lisa Dwan
Director: Walter Asmus
Designer: Alex Eales
Lighting Designer: James Fancombe
Composer: Tom Smail
Sound Designer: David McSeveney