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Endgame review at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow – ‘striking moments’

David Neilson and Chris Gascoyne in Endgame at Glasgow's Citizens Theatre. Photo: Tim Morozzo David Neilson and Chris Gascoyne in Endgame at Glasgow's Citizens Theatre. Photo: Tim Morozzo
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Given Dominic Hill’s reputation for dynamic and distinctive productions, Endgame feels like an easy text: Beckett’s meticulous attention to the detail of the script and the characters’ movements leaves little space for Hill’s stylistic flourishes. However, a strong cast offers excellent performances, as both Chris Gascoyne (Clov) and David Neilson (Hamm) revel in their characters’ melodramatic bickering.

The familiarity of Beckett’s signature dark comedy undermines the impact of the production: recent productions in Scotland of Waiting for Godot and Happy Days reminded audiences of his post-apocalyptic wastelands and anti-naturalistic dissection of human relationships. While Beckett’s command of language and sardonic humour is given vivid life by the cast, his vision of a hostile universe and alienated humans has been given too many outings to shock or surprise. Neilson provides a series of striking moments through Hamm’s monologue, and Gascoyne makes the most of the physical slapstick, yet Beckett’s success militates against the revelation of new themes.

Hamm and Clov bicker, trapped by each other’s disabilities, while the cameo appearances of Nell and Nagg (Rafferty and Kelly) add a familial dimension to the cruelty. Beckett’s one-liners about the hilarity of misery are exercised, while the ponderous movements of Clov give physical comedy and a sense of time drawn out and tortured.

Endgame, like Godot, has become part of the repertoire, an opportunity for splendid performances rather than a bracing exploration of human relationships. Hill clearly encourages superb acting, and is sensitive to the text’s nuances, but the precision of the production leaves Endgame a museum piece rather than a living piece of theatre.

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Verdict
Superb performances enliven an otherwise solid rendering of the absurdist classic
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