Endgame At The Old Vic Is A Bright And Polished Production

Endgame, The Old Vic ★★★★☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 15 months ago

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Endgame At The Old Vic Is A Bright And Polished Production Endgame, The Old Vic 4
Photo: Manuel Harlan

A favourite among Beckett fans, Endgame might not be as funny as Waiting for Godot, but in Richard Jones’s bright and polished production, its dark and bitter heart is made to open and engage a mostly delighted audience. Few writers can construct such compelling metaphors of the human condition in text and image, and there is a lot to savour here.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Much of this good work is down to the two leads, Alan Cumming as Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe as Clov. Locked into roles of mechanical precision, both soak up Beckett’s exacting dialogue and make it their own, achieving that difficult feat of both sounding like themselves and someone speaking with God-like objectivity. Beckett is also a brilliantly corporeal writer and Radcliffe in particular embraces this with Clov’s bent-double ungainly shuffling. His natural warmth works surprisingly well in Beckett’s chilly world.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Cumming’s cooler, more sardonic performance gives perfect expression to his ‘father/master’ role and the impotence of domination, as much trapped by his relationships to Radcliffe’s ‘son/slave’ as vice versa. Again, Beckett’s ability with metaphor shines through with Cumming’s parents housed inside dustbins. What better image is there of our social care system than of old people treated as ‘rubbish’? More broadly, spirits haunting the present connect to O’Neill’s line: ‘there is no present or future-only the past, happening over and over again-now.’

Endgame is not a crowd pleaser. It’s allusive, complex, repetitious and permeated with a pretty bleak view of the human condition. However, if you’re prepared to let it in, Endgame will work its unforgettable magic.

Endgame, The Old Vic, The Cut, SE1 8NB. Tickets £8.50-£125, until 28 March 2020.

Last Updated 07 February 2020