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Beckett in London: The End review at the Print Room – ‘transformative’

Conor Lovett in The End at the Print Room, London. Photo: Shane G Mahon Conor Lovett in The End at the Print Room, London. Photo: Shane G Mahon

At the beginning, is the end. The End, to be precise, the first show in The Print Room’s unapologetically demanding Beckett in London festival, which pays no lip service to casual Godot-botherers and digs straight into the B-sides and rarities.

Despite a scattering of ancillary events, this is really as much of a Gare St Lazare festival as anything, an opportunity to see its principle artist, Conor Lovett, one of the world’s best living interpreters of Beckett, deliver some of his most acclaimed performances.

The End is an archetypal Beckett prose piece – a short story that swings between mortuary humour, misery and flights of banal fantasy. Simple actions are fetishised, language is tugged at with pernickety insistence, a whole life is creased together as tightly as a corpse’s trousers between an undertaker’s thumb and index finger.

Lovett’s performance of these pieces is never less than transformative, he inhabits these shabby and rotting tragedies with a tentative modesty that’s almost ghoulish. He is as apologetic and fragile as Beckett’s terrible husks. He flinches at every sound in the auditorium, he catches every audience members’ eye.

The story could be any one of Beckett’s dozen or so prose stories: a man is released from an institution and slowly dies. Beckett’s style in these stories is almost improvisatory, like one long and horrible joke spun out in the telling. Lovett’s interpretations make this danger real again, rediscovering a vital impermanence and playfulness in such a purposeful and formidable writer.

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Verdict
The Print Room’s Beckett festival sets out its stall with a bleak rendering of The End by the superlative Gare St Lazare
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