Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is a particularly absurdist example of Absurd theatre, not just relegating but entirely shunning the conventional narrative of plot. Directed by Sam Fulton and performed at the Corpus Playroom, this production entraps us, vice-like, in the doomed, pointless post-Armageddon-esque world inhabited both physically and mentally by the four protagonists: chair-bound, blind Hamm, his servant Clov, incapable of sitting, and Hamm’s incapacitated, dustbin-dwelling parents, Nagg and Nell.
Hamm, played by Tim Atkin, is ruler among this sorry gathering of survivors. Atkin articulates the ravings of his character with a haughtiness and artistry which gives colour and depth to the madness and desperation within. His long beard and dark goggles have the comic effect of making him look like an evil overlord, immobile and pathetic. The relationship, if it can be termed that, between Hamm and Clov forms the cornerstone of the play and is one of mutual dependence superseded by an inescapable futility, which Seth Kruger does well to consistently highlight as Clov. Physically decrepit and verbally monotonous, he moves across the stage slowly and deliberately. He outwardly captures Clov’s mixture of fatigue and disability with haunting effect, speaking a language of futility more direct than words.
The disparity between the utterances of Hamm and Clov is marked. Atkin’s voice as Hamm dominates the play, transfixing the audience and drawing them into his plight and neurosis. He mixes confusion and effete superiority to compelling effect, ensuring that the audience live through every moment of his torture with him. Kruger’s comparative lack of emotion as Clov contrasts with Hamm’s dramatism, and reflects his resignation, or perhaps that Clov is simply too tired and pained to express himself. Kruger’s role is the more challenging, and he manages to convey this ambiguity despite his character’s limited emotional range.
Declan Amphlett is posh and irritable as Nagg, whose rapport with Nell, played by Alice Carlill, gives us a momentary glimpse into a happier past. Her peals of laughter at a memory recalled by Nagg are the only glimmer of light, however, in a dark and sapping world whose monotonous infinity is recalled around every bend. This production does particularly well to invoke the infinite, fatiguing pain of its subjects without coming to a halt, instead drawing the audience in and forcing them to experience every second without recourse or want for escape.
It rings so true, perhaps, because rather than portraying a fantasy world, its dystopia rather magnifies the mundanity and repetition of everyday life.