Endgame @ State Theatre Centre

Kelton Pell (right), and Geoff Kelso (left), stars in Andrew Ross' adaptation of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Photo: Daniel James Grant

Kelton Pell (right), and Geoff Kelso (left), stars in Andrew Ross' adaptation of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. Photo: Daniel James Grant

Director: Andrew Ross

Presented by: Black Swan Theatre Company

Starring: George Shevtsov, Geoff Kelso, Kelton Pell, Caroline McKenzie


“Do not go gentle in that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

If anything sums up what Endgame is about, it is the above quote by Dylan Thomas, which one does not get to use too often. Existentialism and the absurdity of existence are common themes that run in Samuel Beckett’s work- one of Ireland’s great cultural exports other than a certain type of drink at the bar. From the man who brought us Waiting For Godot, something like Endgame would have been somewhere down the line.

Endgame is set in a world that is apparently depopulated, and all that is left is the four inside a refuge- Hamm, our main character, who is blind and extremely rude and ill-tempered. Clou (pronounced clough) is Hamm’s ever loyal servant, who also tends to Hamm’s parents- Nell and Nagg, who are extremely infirm, and therefore live inside a nearby dustbin. And Hamm feels that death is closing in on him, and rages and curses as his light fades.

For a generation used to a certain level of speed, the plodding, almost round-about and circular pacing of the play can be a major turn off for today’s audiences- this interpretation and presentation is intensely slow, even by the standards of a theatre, and it can certainly feel like it takes forever for the story to move, especially when the events on stage are particularly vague and requires lots of effort to keep up with. Andrew Ross’ Endgame doesn’t rely on the bells and whistles that are often present in today’s theatre, and instead rests entirely on the strong, if somewhat abrasive and exaggerated performances of a veteran cast- their antics delighted the younger audience at the back of the crowd, whilst the older audience seemed to have looked bored out of their minds. Consequentially, the visual and aural elements are kept to a very bare minimum.

Endgame is a solid piece of abstract, absurdist theatre, if you can keep up with the play’s pace or lack thereof, and the theme of mortality behind it. I guess the stark reminder of it can be a little terrifying, and consequently, rich food for thought.

Endgame runs until 11th of June.

Clayton Lin