“There are a thousand essays on Endgame,” says director Ryan Kerr, “and each one has a different interpretation.”
Keep those words in mind as you read my review of Ryan’s production of Samuel Beckett’s landmark play, running from Thursday, April 21st to Saturday, April 23rd at The Theatre on King (TTOK) in downtown Peterborough.
Written in 1957, Endgame is considered one of Beckett’s most important works. A dour and pessimistic play with moments of humour, the show revolves around Hamm (Rob Fortin), a blind and disabled master of his own one-room world.
Bound to a chair and unable to fend for himself, Hamm wallows in delusions of grandeur, as he plays manipulative and cruel head games with the other three figures in his small existence. His primary antagonist is his servant Clov (Kelsey Gordon-Powell), a man who cannot sit.
Hamm and Clov exchange hostile banter back and forth, as Clov is forced to listen to Hamm’s rantings and is put through a variety of menial tasks. Also in Hamm’s world are his parents Nagg (Wyatt Lamoureux) and Nell (Diane Latchford). Legless and living in garbage cans, Nagg and Nell are victims of neglect and abuse and live in fear of their deranged son’s sporadic tirades.
It’s difficult to give a comprehensible review of a Samuel Beckett play when its interpretation is left to each audience member. I obviously took my own meaning from the show, but as I spoke to other spectators at the preview about what we just watched, more pieces to the puzzle fit into my understanding (or perhaps lack of understanding) of the show.
The beauty of TTOK’s production doesn’t lie in the narrative as much as it does within the spectacle of the production: a hostile verbal dance between four doomed individuals. Dark, heartless and foreboding, Endgame is as beautiful as it is disturbing to watch.
Rob Fortin is both repulsive and magnetic as Hamm. Abusive and cruel, Hamm is a tyrant of his own domain. He’s a portrait of a possibly once-powerful man who is now at the end of his days, and finds that his voice is more powerful than his actions due to his disabled state.
Bordering on insanity, Hamm seems to grasp onto the last bit of power that he has in his small world. Fortin draws the audience in, and carries them through the production on his crippled shoulders and in his fractured mind.
Meanwhile, Kelsey Gordon-Powell creates an interesting adversary for Hamm in the sarcastic and nearly defeated Clov. As Cloy drags his leg back and forth across the TTOK stage, the limb almost becomes its own character while the voice of Cloy’s master plucks away at his own sanity.
Wyatt Lamoureux and Diane Latchford as Nagg and Nell offer the show’s only sweetness in their brief scene together. They are the only characters who are kind to one another and there’s a genuine moment of love between them. Also, while there’s some dark humour throughout the play, Nagg and Nell provide the most comic relief. Unfortunately, this is short-lived with the tragedy that follows.
With its professional cast and high production values, there’s no doubt that Endgame is an excellent theatrical production. However, be forewarned: Samuel Beckett is an acquired taste and Endgame is highly unconventional and not for everyone.
Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you walk in the door. Endgame has an interpretive element that won’t appeal to anyone looking for a light evening of theatre with a straightforward narrative. However, if you’re already a fan of Beckett’s work — or if you’re looking for a a different kind of well-produced theatre experience — Endgame is Theatre of the Absurd at its finest.
Endgame runs from April 21st to 23rd at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door, with a pay-what-you-can option on opening night.