A relatively recent addition to Melbourne’s theatre scene, The Eleventh Hour has quickly established itself as an independent company of note since winning a couple of Green Room awards last year.
Directed by William Henderson and Anne Thompson, For Samuel Beckett celebrates 100 years since the birth of the venerable ‘poet, playwright, novelist’, and sees the company tackle Beckett’s Endgame (and its ‘difficult’ reputation), viewed through “the multiple prisms of other art forms which influenced his formation as a dramatist”.
Preceding the main work of the program, these multiple prisms consist of an excerpt from Ulysses, from Beckett’s oft-described mentor, James Joyce, music from Bach (a beautifully articulated and emotional performance from violinist Miwako Abe), and silent films courtesy of Buster Keaton.
For this production of Endgame, the company set out to play up the comedic aspects of Beckett’s work (tying in nicely with Keaton’s onscreen antics), an element of his output they feel is often overlooked.
The Eleventh Hour’s own theatre, a small converted church in Fitzroy, is an intriguing venue. The company have completely transformed the space for this production, and despite a slightly awkward vantage point for the audience, have made inspired use of all its unusual features and dimensions.
Delivering the entire piece atop a throne-like wheelchair, Peter Houghton gives a potent performance as the blind invalid, Hamm. A transformed David Tredinnick, in a most peculiar costume, a rather defensive ensemble: part jumpsuit, part straightjacket, along with safety helmet and heavy boots, is equally masterful as Hamm’s son/servant, Clov.
Richard Bligh and Evelyn Krape round out the exemplary cast as Hamm’s elderly parents, Nag and Nell, who are seeing out their last days in two huge rubbish bins.
Hamm and Clov live a strained existence of mutual dependency - the constant back and forth of their dialogue is not easy banter, it’s a tug of war. Referring to the last moves in a game of chess, Endgame is all about the exchange of dialogue. There is very little action.
As Houghton commented in a recent interview with The Age, “You need absolute clarity to pull it off…nothing general will get you through with (Beckett). You have to be specific in every line”.
This exhaustive approach to their interpretation has certainly paid off - the compelling delivery of Houghton and Tredinnick completely sucks you in. The plight of these bizarre characters becomes strangely and suddenly engrossing.
The Eleventh Hour presents
For Samuel Beckett
Direction/Composition William Henderson/Anne Thompson
Design by Julie Renton
Lighting Design by Niklas Pajanti
Performed by Richard Bligh, Peter Houghton, Shona Innes, Evelyn Krape, David Tredinnick and Miwako Abe - violin
Venue: Eleventh Hour Theatre | 170 Leicester Street Fitzroy
Dates: November 25 – December 9
Times: Tues – Sat @ 8pm
Tickets: Week 1: All Tickets $15 Week 2: $35/15 conc
Bookings: 9419 5649