There’s something very soothing and relaxing in the music of Here All Night, presented here as part of the Beckett in London Festival, and the phrase ‘We could be here all night’ is repeated so often in the various musical interludes that it loses its initial impact, and part of me began (despite being informed of the running time on arrival) whether we would actually be here all night. On that level, this fusion of spoken word, sung lyrics and reflective music is successful in drawing people into the world of Samuel Beckett. I do wonder what Beckett himself would have made of the Yoda-style refrain, “Night here, here we, we night”.
The music, distinctively Irish in tone, is more akin to the sort of thing to be found at Wigmore Hall or King’s Place rather than the Roundhouse or the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. An off-stage choir, comprised of Clemmie Franks, Victoria Couper, Elaine Tate, Rebecca Askew, Hazel Holder and Emily Burn, provides multi-level harmonies that, combined with the solo parts of singer Melanie Pappenheim, allow certain phrases and sentences from the canon of Beckett’s works to be slowly savoured and pondered on in a way that wouldn’t be done by reading his novels and short stories. It is too harsh, I think, to use the analogy of the stuck record; these are more like ‘movements’ found in classical music. It’s a slow burner, and is surprisingly impactful given how understated this performance is.
It’s the assured narrative spoken by Conor Lovett that, although always stoically calm, is thought-provoking, sometimes raising more questions than it answers, though Beckett never really was afraid of not having all the solutions to life’s imponderables, and, as far as his writing indicates, wasn’t too fazed by that. To quote the Czech writer Milan Kundera, “The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything.”
Beckett, as Here All Night demonstrates, is no fool. It is even acceptable for Beckett to leave thoughts unfinished, as Lovett deadpans, to laughter from the audience: “…and, and nothing. This sentence has gone on long enough.” It takes a deep level of both self-awareness and humility to simply stop digging without a third party suggesting one should do so.
I rather like how undefinable this production is. Is it a play with music? Are the sections of spoken words actually the interludes? Does it even matter? This is so very Beckettian, as it were, making the audience take a second look and see things from another perspective.
Nothing is relentless, as text, song and music serenely give each other room to breathe, and if there was anything approaching frenetic, it came in the equivalent of a musical theatre ‘eleven o’clock number’ in a rapid piano solo from John-Paul Gandy. A reflective piece of theatre, it’s certainly very different from anything I’ve come across before.
The only piece of set is a suspended effigy, supported by ropes. Even so, this is a talent-filled performance that has both style and substance, showing that it is possible to develop a show that charms and engages without bells, whistles and all the trimmings. A pleasant experience.
Review by Chris Omaweng
At The Print Room at the Coronet
103 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3LB
The End – 17th May 2016 – directed by Judy Hegarty, featuring actor Conor Lovett
Here All Night – 21st May 2016 – music and text by Samuel Beckett, and original score by Paul Clark
Hello, Sam – 23rd May 2016 – an audio visual installation by artist Brian O’Doherty
All texts by Samuel Beckett were written intended to be read and are presented by arrangement with Curtis Brown Group with the kind permission of The Estate of Samuel Beckett.