by Samuel Beckett.

Duchess Theatre 3-5 Catherine Street WC2B 5LA To 15 February 2014.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 February.

A bleak but not dispiriting hour.
Krapp’s Last Tape had just been played, an interval taken. But as the lights went down it seemed some audience member wouldn’t stop talking. The voice gabbled on down by the stage. No, on the stage, the curtain rising to reveal a small circle of light illuminating a mouth.

On went the mouth, telling someone’s story, denying any personal involvement several times: “What? Who? No. She,” the last word with emphasis, the whole with a sharp rebuke bordering alarm. Till the rapidly-spoken account, whatever it was (impossible to tell at a single hearing, without preparation), faded and the curtain fell.

So Billie Whitelaw introduced Samuel Beckett’s short piece Not I to London in 1973. Now Lisa Dwan, already a seasoned Beckett performer, plays the piece with two later short solo female Beckett pieces.

Though both Footfalls (premiered 1976) and Rockaby (1981) show a full figure, and even create a kind of conversation with an unseen character, or inner consciousness, the impression is of isolation and separation. In Beckett’s earlier short Film, written for silent film comedian Buster Keaton, the character tries to shut out the world and self-awareness. In these plays chatter or reflection equally are ways of rejection.

Director Walter Asmus has the Mouth moving amid the utter dark, and Rockaby’s rocking-chair placed on a raised platform. Neither is wrong, but neither is necessary. Beckett’s visual images are simple, stark and powerful, as his language is intricate and sparely elegant.

Between the post-box slit of light for Not I’s Mouth, and the slowly rocking figure of Rockaby, with her repeated images of descent, it’s maybe the slow-moving figure of Footfalls who provides the most searing image. Dressed in the white gown for a ball she will never attend, the lighting makes her wraith-like, then, as she faces us between nine-pace traversing of a corridor outside her mother’s room, seems to melt her face.

There’s almost warmth in the voice here unlike the cold tone of the black-clad figure rocking herself to death in the final play, where Dwan gives a cold, humanity-drained performance. She has the Beckett spirit absolutely.

Mouth/May/Woman: Lisa Dwan.

Director: Walter Asmus.
Designer: Alex Eales.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: David McSeveney.
Composer: Tom Smail
Assistant director: Matthew McFrederick.

2014-02-12 13:23:58

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