At the risk of sounding effusive, a production like the Andrew Upton directed Endgame is the reason why people go to the theatre: spellbinding performances and meticulous direction has made Endgame one of the theatre events of the year, which may sound premature, but trust me, is not.
Andrew Upton seems to be working on the Edward Albee principle of directing with strictest attention to the original stage directions – and has taken care not to deviate too much from the Beckett classic. Beckett had issue in his life with productions of his work which strayed from the original directions, and took legal action against a 1984 production in Massachusetts which proposed to stage Endgame in an outdoor tunnel.
Set design by Nick Schlieper included the requisite room adorned minimally with two small windows, and of course Hamm's parent's respective containers (though Schlieper has substituted oil drums for garbage cans). The room actually looked like the inside of a tower and so intent was Clov on the view, I was itching to get up on that ladder, to see what he could.
That is the point of Beckett: seeing the irrational and absurd in ordinary human pursuits. I know that if I climb the ladder I won't see a view, but I still want to climb it. The futility of communication is another pursuit lampooned as Clov is often on the brink of abandoning Hamm, but is always convinced to stay, seduced by Hamm's relentless and nonsensical dialogue, which never fails to amuse.
Tom Budge delivered a virtuoso performance as Clov: he executes his duties in exacting , yet forgetful fashion, with intense concentration on space, as he moves Hamm around the stage. Hugo Weaving as Hamm was absolutely brilliant. His monologues create a landscape that is rich in simple drama, while his unseeing eyes held the audience in their grip. Hamm is after all, trying to stave off the end with a few last minute manipulations that are pointless but for him necessary.
Hamm's parents Nagg and Nell are played expertly by Bruce Spence and Sarah Peirse. They are a brief distraction from the interplay between Hamm and Clov and their existence in the play serves to extend Hamm's observations on life. Spence has a good face for his part, he is expressive while Hamm tells him a story but seems to doze off, a transgression that he knows will rile Hamm. Sarah Peirse's role is all too small as she and husband Nagg reminisce while Hamm sleeps, as the only woman on stage it was a shame that the role of Nell is so small.
Andrew Upton presents Endgame as a more sophisticated companion piece to Waiting For Godot, and fans of Beckett who are after a detailed and faithful rendering will not be disappointed by this production.
Featuring: Tom Budge, Sarah Peirse, Bruce Spence and Hugo Weaving.
Creative Team: Andrew Upton (director), Nick Schlieper, Renée Mulder, Max Lyandvert, Hugo Weaving (associate director), Sian James-Holland, Jessica Arthur, Kate Chapman, Minka Stevens, Katie Hankin, Lauren A Proietti, Steve Mason, Kane Mott, Chris Fleming, Andrew Thomkins, Harry Clegg, Kevin White, Remy Woods and Lisa Tomasetti.
Endgame in on until 9 May, and amazingly there are still tickets available, see: https://www.sydneytheatre.com.au/whats-on/productions/2015/endgame