Beckett's Endgame at the Duchess Theatre

The Observer reviews the production
Mark Rylance, Tom Hickey and Miriam Margolyes in Endgame at the Duchess. Photograph: Tristram Kenton
Today's Observer newspaper reviews Simon McBurney's London production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame:
Just because it's called Endgame, it doesn't mean it's the last word. Simon McBurney's production of Beckett's dustbin play is a dazzling piece of chiaroscuro, but this baroque installation is an occasion for marvelling rather than insight.

Beckett's intense staging of despair delivers its big shots in the first images: the parents stuffed into the bins, the underling slipping up and down the ladder, the blinded figure stranded on a throne mopping his bloodied brow; the windows which offer no prospect. From then on, everyone is stuck in an attitude that can only intensify or unravel, pierced by verbal shafts:

"He's crying."

"Then he's living."

As the old bin bag, Miriam Margolyes wears her garbage can as if were a doily; Tom Hickey's face looms out of his like a fading lightbulb. They play their intimate exchanges – "rub yourself against the rim" – finely, with glum, lascivious attention. Around them, McBurney glooms and lurches, as stiff-jointed as a compass, while Mark Rylance, an unseeing potentate in a forgotten room, floats, drifts, swims between humility and grandiosity. Rylance, one of the most magnetic actors on the British stage, can seem to be the missing link between thought and action, spirit and physicality. He's riveting here, but as a performance rather than a presence: he doesn't use the enhanced naturalness which is his strongest suit. Playing up to his name – Hamm – he is like an animated candelabra: a crowd of blazing lights.

Simon McBurney's production of Endgame runs at the Duchess Theatre in London until December 5th.

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