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A Beckettesque Play at The Bread and Roses Theatre – Review

A Beckettesque Play Picture© Kat Kwok, 2015 - All Rights Reserved
Picture© Kat Kwok, 2015 – All Rights Reserved

A Beckettesque Play is certainly something very different to a mainstream production, even one of Samuel Beckett’s own works, such as Endgame or Waiting For Godot. To appreciate Beckett’s works requires some considerable thought. This play, however, comes across as too repetitive, a cross between Yoda of ‘Star Wars’ and a broken record – it simply takes too long to make each of its salient points.

Woman (Moa Johansson) is a face we never even see. This alone is ‘Beckettesque’ on two counts – firstly, some of Beckett’s characters in his literature are indeed unnamed. Secondly, Beckett’s writing is never a walk in the park for its audiences, at least not on first viewing. I do wonder, however, whether this production takes even Beckett to an extreme. For a considerable chunk of the performance, Woman is laden with a collection of small rocks that are tied to her, and it is only after an absurdly long silence in which she opens and shuts pairs of scissors repeatedly, cutting nothing but the air, until she finally cuts the ropes, only for us to discover that she is still struggling because she has been stood on high heels since before the start of the show.

Every movement is almost painfully slow, particularly in one scene where the small rocks, or rather the ropes holding them, are picked up, sometimes one at a time, and moved around and repositioned. I am afraid there is precisely nothing to be taken away from that, and it all came across as one very, very long scene change. Appreciation of this production is made yet more difficult by a repeated piece of monologue about the whole thing being ‘just’ words, and ‘meaningless’ words at that, which made me wonder why we were sat there watching a play that by its own admission purportedly doesn’t mean anything.

I wasn’t sure, either, what scrunching up a roll of brown paper into something very broadly resembling a ball was supposed to represent: all I could think of was the amount of packaging that sometimes comes with enormous parcels delivered to the office that contain items that could have easily gone into a smaller box. But perhaps there are as many interpretations of proceedings as there are people in the audience, and then some. And I will admit that it is mesmerising to see and hear exactly the same lines repeated over and over again, with only very slight variations in tone each time. I did an exercise as a schoolboy where we were asked to read, out loud, the same passage twice, in exactly the same way. It took far more practice than I thought it would.

While the show claims it does not draw on Beckett’s literature, merely his ‘aesthetics’, I cannot help but draw a comparison between the monologues in this play with Beckett’s Worstward Ho. Consider, for example, this from Worstward Ho: “Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. That at least. A place. Where none. For the body. To be in. Move on. Out of. Back into. No. No out. No back. Only in. Stay in. On in. Still.” Here, too, only the bare minimum of words (in terms of vocabulary) is used, except for one monologue laden with words beginning with ‘p’, a far longer, more sophisticated and more profound version of ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’.

It’s an unusual piece of theatre, for sure, and it does at least provide a lot of talking points in the pub afterwards and on the journey home. The show has the oddest curtain call I have ever come across (of which I will say no more). It’s a little too disjointed with only limited coherency, and could have benefitted from a stronger narrative. Still, there’s a lyrical quality to some of the repeated monologues and some food for thought in the ideas and philosophies put forward.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

“A woman. A play.Roaming in the dark. It’s dark. Her face is gone.
Gone away. To the front of the stage. At the very front of the stage”

Lost in identities she fumbles, she fumbles, she fumbles.
Eyes on me”.
She speaks, she does, she continues. To fumble.
I can see

Director: Laura Graham Anderson
Cast: Moa Johansson
Devised by director and cast
http://www.breadandrosestheatre.co.uk/

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