Theatre review: Endgame

Posted: August 26, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews



First published in the Cape Times 24 August 2010


Starring: Guy De Lancey, Adrian Collins, Nicholas Ellenbogen and Liz Szymczak. Written by:  Samuel Beckett.  Directed by:  Luke Ellenbogen.  at The Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until 28 August.  ASTRID STARK reviews


If you find Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot multifaceted, arresting, and at times obscure, Endgame is likely to scramble and re-align your brain a little bit off centre.  A master, played by Guy de Lancey, and his servant, Adrian Collins, takes the lead in this dark drama which is infused with dribbles of wry humour.   Their relationship, which may have been symbiotic at an earlier phase, has turned parasitic when Hamm, de Lancey’s character, verbally abuses his servant, and frets and pouts like a spoilt child.  Hamm is blind and can’t stand up, and Clov, the servant, can’t sit down.  This is a further exploration of Beckett into the Theatre of the Absurd.

 At the beginning of the play, Clov pulls back the curtains from the windows. There is a sea window and an earth window which has perhaps led to the debate that the play is about the end of the world.  It certainly feels as if the two characters are contained within a small cubicle, which is floating in a sea of nothingness, as they squabble about the meaning of life, or rather what they fear is the lack thereof.  Clov desperately wants to leave his master but the two are strung along an invisible bond which connects most human beings; love, devotion, fear, hatred and loneliness.  That which makes the two human is also that from which they are desperate to escape.  Hamm, in what appears to be a form of masochism eventually denies himself all his pleasures as he prepares himself for death. He abuses Clov to the point that he leaves, then Hamm alienates himself from his parents and finally he discards his stick and his three-legged dog.

Pic by Jesse Kramer

Two more characters magically appear a bit later on in the play.  Hamm’s parents, who lost their legs, live in rubbish bins and beg for sawdust and food from their cruel son.  Nell is played by Liz Szymczak and Nicholas Ellenbogen is the father called Nagg.   Nell and Nagg slowly emerge from their respective rubbish bins until just their heads, shoulders and arms – gripping the rim of the bins – are exposed.  They wear what appears to be old-fashioned sleeping caps, their faces are deathly pale and between them they are missing a lot of teeth.  Ellenbogen wears a collar of green fabric flowers which makes him look like a garbage patch kid.  The comic child-like costumes and ensuing dialogue between them and their son could imply the regression of the human being to a child-like state as old age ravages their bodies minds.   The theme of elderly abuse and neglect are also strong.  Hamm gets tired of listening to his parents and instructs Clov to, ‘Bottle them’, which is simutlatneously amusing and bleak.

Endgame dips in and out of the existentialism debate.  The hardcore existentialist believes that life is but a cruel joke.  Nell reflect this when she laughing says, ‘Nothing is funnier than unhappiness’.   Heart wrenching it is to witness Nell and Nagg trying to kiss each other but they can’t quit reach.   They can’t even see each other.  Ellenbogen’s performance, even if it is only from his shoulders up and sitting in a rubbish bin, is phenomenal. He uses his face and hands to evoke empathy for his character.  Szymczak as his wife makes you want to leap up on the stage and gently lift her out of the bin and take her to a pretty place. Except when you stop and think about the no legs, no sawdust and no teeth, the idea seems a little less appealing. 

Guy de Lancey is chilling  as the controlling and abusive Hamm.  Throughout the entire play  his character remains seated and even though he cannot walk or stand up he clearly exerts absolute control over his world.  Adrian Collins delivers an authentic performance as the unsure and reluctant servant trapped in this bad ‘marriage’.   Endgame is very much about relationships and our interconnectivity to others.  How tragic it is that sometimes the ones you love are often those that keep you trapped and are the prime cause of your misery.    As Sir Walter Scott mused, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive”.   Our human nature by default appears to be  absurd and yet we cannot escape it.  Endgame is running in repertory with the Mechanicals theatre group’s Highway Crossing, and it is yet another one of their excellent productions.

  • The show starts at 20h00.   Tickets are R100 with seating concessions at R80 & R60  For theatre bookings call 021 480 7129 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting, or e-mail

Guy De Lancey - Pic by Jesse Kramer


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