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Review Roundup: ENDGAME Starring Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe at The Old Vic - What Did the Critics Think?

Review Roundup: ENDGAME Starring Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe at The Old Vic - What Did the Critics Think?

Richard Jones' production of Endgame at the Old Vic officially opened last night, February 4. The production stars Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe, alongside Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson.

Nothing stirs outside. In a bare room, Hamm, an old, blind tyrant, is locked in a stalemate with his servant Clov. Interrupted only by the nostalgic musings of Hamm's ancient, dustbin-dwelling parents, this bleakly funny double act cling stubbornly to their routine of casual savagery and mutual dependence.

Richard Jones directs Beckett's macabre comedy in which hope and cruelty are the last things to die.

Let's see what the critics are saying...


Mert Dilek, BroadwayWorld: Jones's spirited and suave take on this demanding piece is particularly attuned to its persistent concern with the act of playing - of performing for oneself and others. It's a production carefully punctuated by its internal references to the theatre, and one that knows its way around the play's deep-running caverns. Excellent performances are integral to this result. Alan Cumming portrays a Hamm whose despair and boredom are perfectly matched with his manipulative histrionics. Mixing the demonic and the flippant, Cumming revels in Hamm's corrosive need to self-dramatise. Daniel Radcliffe delivers a tightly controlled, charming performance as the limping Clov. Sliding down a ladder or twirling Hamm's armchair, he cuts a pitiably exasperated but deeply affable figure. The chemistry between the two is marvellous.

Marianka Swain, The Arts Desk: Cumming adds superb touches, whether savouring the despairing cry of editors everywhere as he sifts through dense writing to "find the verb", brandishing a pencil with a Harry Potter wand-like flourish, or - when transferring his files to his colleague's desk, nervous of upsetting another lamp - just softly nudging the documents onto the table with his groin. Radcliffe provides a good sounding board, but gabbles his own speech so that nuances are lost. In both this and the following Endgame, it's his physical work that proves more effective. His Clov has a hunched, limping but still manic scuttle - like a crab dragging an injured limb - and he either wriggles or slides hurriedly down the ladder, each descent seeming more precarious. However, the mechanics of his performance are too evident.

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut London: Radcliffe's clowning and Cumming's verbal showboating make for a funnier-than-usual airing for these plays. 'Endgame', in particular, can be far more ominous and chilly; here it almost has the air of a surrealist sitcom about a dysfunctional family (rounded out by Karl Johnson and Jane Horrocks as Hamm's wheelie-bin-dwelling parents Nagg and Nell). But the work is robust enough to handle the laughs. Here, Jones makes difficult theatre entertaining, and also relevant - never a guarantee with Beckett, whose posthumous insistence on precise revivals can easily drift towards the museum piecey.

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard: Daniel Radcliffe reveals a flair for physical comedy in Samuel Beckett's bleakly amusing end-of-the-world show. Radcliffe and Alan Cumming also have the exquisite timing and rhythm of a seasoned double act as the servant, Clov, and master, Hamm, playing out the same old power games as their bodies steadily decay. There's no human pity or affection in their home and the world outside is blasted. Endgame is never less than demanding, but Richard Jones's rigorously clear production nicely balances comic absurdity with despair.

Mark Lawson, The Guardian: This production strongly has the feel of a lost cousin to Pinter's The Dumb Waiter (1957), where temperamentally contrasting men attend another kind of death and which Pinter wrote at almost exactly the time Beckett worked on the first version of Rough for Theatre II. In both this fascinating curiosity and the more celebrated Endgame, Radcliffe and Cumming achieve the Beckett paradox of exhilarating bleakness.

Tim Bano, The Stage: Cumming's Hamm is the biggest ham Hamm has been. He elongates lines and chatters through others, camp as some arch-villain in a kids' cartoon and his own self-parody. He's imperious without any sense of authority, the ridiculous despot of his own tiny kingdom, capricious and pathetic. What sets him apart from so many other Hamms is how animated he seems. When the world around him is dead or dying, he can't help but stay miserably, piercingly alive. To have that much charisma while sitting in a chair is impressive.

Claire Allfree, Metro: Cumming, in a faded robe revealing two shockingly skinny legs, like a tuning fork, is all waspish petulance; Radcliffe is a blunter, baleful Clov who smacks his head Charlie Chaplin-style when he forgets something. Every so often, Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson as Hamm's parents pop up out of dustbins, in scene-stealing moments of exquisite lyrical tenderness. It's a gruelling evening. Not because Beckett's apocalyptic certitude feels so very close to our hell in a handcart era, but because Radcliffe and Cumming never really find the measure of the language, the depths of its cruelty and despair and the humanity in the awfulness. Endgame can inspire elating desolation, but this feels merely attritional.

Mark Shenton, LondonTheatre.co.uk: Richard Jones's productions are luxuriously cast with star names that might seduce unwary theatregoers. Daniel Radcliffe was last seen on the Old Vic stage in Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in 2017, another vaudevillian double-act; if that play is dense and knowing, it doesn't require as much heavy lifting as this evening does, and Radcliffe is embarrassingly pressed into doing a ministry of funny walks in Endgame (and some unfathomable business on descending a stepladder which is sort of funny the first time but ridiculous by the eighth). He is paired with the enigmatically creepy Alan Cumming, whose naked, hairless match-stick legs reminded me of Glenda Jackson's similar uncovering in King Lear on this stage. There are two brilliant cameo turns from a virtually unrecognisable Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson as Hamm's parents, but they can't save it anymore than they can save themselves.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

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