The Power of Fiction
in Theatre and the Transformation of Reality
Associate Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Waseda University
The pungent smell of actual urine in the dark lane behind the Gaiety Theatre sets the scene for Company SJ’s outdoor interpretation of Beckett’s minimalist mime and meditation on the human condition (first performed in 2009’s Fringe). Two men lie in the soiled cocoons of their sleeping bags, goaded to emerge by an unseen prompter into following repetitive and possibly meaningless rituals, one after another, for eternity.
“A”, the more dishevelled of the two, is first to emerge, and is offered a moving and well-judged interpretation by Raymond Keane, in a perfectly realised performance that makes the most of the physical possibilities of this silent piece. With suggestions of homelessness and addiction, director Sarah Jane Scaife reads deeply into the rich possibilities of this barren vision of the destitute.
The more fastidious “B” adds comedy to the bleakness and acts as something of a counterpoint to “A”, as he carefully combs his hair, brushes his teeth and folds his cloths amid the squalor. Bryan Burroughs successfully and wordlessly conveys the vain dignity of this pernickety vagrant, as he attempts to hold his head aloft, with all the sincerity and absurdity of Sisyphus. A simple but apt setting and understated design by Aedín Cosgrove throws the sparse bareness of this Beckettian universe into relief. A few sheets of cardboard on the damp concrete, a simple oblique light, and nothing more is required of the minimal mise en scène: there can be no unnecessary theatrical flourishes when reality, and drama, are stripped so close to the marrow. Beckett himself would no doubt have approved.