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Review: THE BECKETT TRILOGY, Coronet Theatre

As punishing as you would expect.

By: Jun. 21, 2024
Review: THE BECKETT TRILOGY, Coronet Theatre  Image
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Review: THE BECKETT TRILOGY, Coronet Theatre  Image

“A play where nothing happens twice” - wrote one critic of Waiting for Godot. Perhaps then nothing happens three times in The Beckett Trilogy - a tightly knit but almost impenetrably dense stage adaption of three of Beckett’s prose works.

It is as punishing as you would expect. Little theatrical garnish. No music. One spotlight lighting one actor, veteran Beckett performer Conor Lovett. But persevere with director Judy Hegarty and Lovett’s merciless vision and the hard work will pay off.

Think of it like a race to the bottom: each story is shrouded in more scepticism than the last until only fundamentals of human experience remain.

In Molloy the titular protagonist persistently doubts the world he inhabits until it melts into nothing. He can’t remember the name of his aging mother, nor the town where he seems stranded. After he is arrested for indecency, he can barely remember his own name. Peppered with menacing pauses, Lovett is left quivering like a child lost in the supermarket. Hands wringing, he is terrified but unable to burst into tears.

Malone Dies is the most meandering. Recounted from the eponymous narrator’s deathbed. Memory and storytelling, fact and fiction, slowly implode. A misty maze of loose ends as thick as swimming through mud. But Lovett magnifies the absurd humour bubbling beneath the angst even if it suffers from theatrical inertia.

Good thing the fireworks are saved for last. The Unnamable explodes, a breathless surge of raw emotion. Here the narrator has no body, just a thinking thing thrust into the void. All they can do is piece together their, and our, existence. Unceremoniously stripped of narrative and character, that raw thing underneath it all, that we recognise as both universal to all humans and specific to our own little existences, crawls out from its hiding place. It’s almost beyond language. Unnamable – yes exactly that.

Lit from the front, Lovett’s distortedly large shadow menacingly hangs over him - the perfect image to accompany a rushing stream of anxiety-ridden consciousness. He is quietly captivating. The unwieldy language would be utterly unforgiving for a lesser performer, but he exhales it like air from his lungs.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to walk around with three of the most simultaneously soul-nourishing and soul-destroying works of 20th century literature in your head. But that’s the thing with Beckett when it’s done well. After the curtain falls you don’t quite know whether to pour yourself a glass of wine or hang yourself.

The Beckett Trilogy plays at the Coronet Theatre until 22 June

Photo Credit: Ros Kavanagh


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