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Endgame, HOME - Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Iím a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
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Room with a gloomy view
To say that the existence of the characters in Endgame is bleak is perhaps to cast too rosy a glow on the matter.

In a decrepit room, with two windows that need a ladder to reach them, Hamm (David Neilson) spends his days in a wheelchair in the centre of the room. The chair sometimes seems like a throne because he is the owner of the house and enjoys the power this gives him. Hamm summons his servant Clov (Chris Gascoyne) with a whistle, especially when Clov is finding some light relief by staring at the wall in the kitchen.

David Neilson (Hamm) in Endgame, by Samuel Beckett. Photo by Tim Morozzo.
David Neilson (Hamm) and Chris Gascoyne (Clov) in Endgame, by Samuel Beckett. Photo by Tim Morozzo.

Clov repeatedly asks: "Why do I always obey him?" and we wonder what the answer is and long for him to escape. Oh, and Hamm's parents, Nagg (Peter Kelly) and Nell (Barbara Rafferty), live in adjacent dustbins. They bear their living arrangements with surprising equanimity, finding solace in reminiscing about yesterday.

Endgame Home Barbara Rafferty Peter Kelly Samuel Beckett
Barbara Rafferty (Nell) and Peter Kelly (Nagg) in Endgame, by Samuel Beckett. Photo by Tim Morozzo.

This production is directed by Dominic Hill. It is a co-production with the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, where it was performed at the start of February. David Neilson obviously relishes the role of Hamm, which is a world away from the part of Roy Cropper, which he plays in Coronation Street. Chris Gascoyne, who plays Peter Barlow in the same soap opera, shows a great talent for physical acting, in the way he conveys both comedy and despondency by limping around the stage as if he was wearing a ball and chain.

The characters in Endgame are held together by a strange sort of interdependence. Hamm is blind and Clov is his eyes. This affords Clov some small opportunities to make mischief but ultimately he is at Hamm's beck and call. Nagg and Nell both need each other, so that they can talk about the old days and Nagg will listen to Hamm's stories on the promise of a biscuit.

Hamm constantly asks if the end has come yet and the play contains one of Beckett's best lines. When Clov asks Hamm if he believes in the life to come, Hamm replies: "Mine was always that."

Beckett seems to be saying that we can just about put up with anything, as long as we know that it will end. There are few writers who could could hold our attention without using traditional theatrical tools such as scene changes and plot twists.

Whether you enjoy Endgame, as opposed to just admire it, probably depends on how much the play's take on existence resonates with you and whether you agree with Nell that 'nothing is as funny as unhappiness'. It was noticeable that, on the night I saw it, some of the audience laughed throughout, whilst others watched in silence.

Endgame Home Chris Gascoyne David Neilson Samuel Beckett
David Neilson (Hamm) and Chris Gascoyne (Clov) in Endgame, by Samuel Beckett. Photo by Tim Morozzo.

For me, it was the rhythm and dark beauty of Beckett's use of language that held my attention. I have to agree with Hamm when Clov asks him: "What keeps me here?" and Hamm answers: "The dialogue."
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Why? Coronation Street stars take on play by Samuel Beckett
Phone: 0161 200 1500
Where: HOME Manchester
Cost: From £10
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