Browse reviews

FringeReview UK 2016

The Beckett Trilogy

Gare St Lazare

Genre: Classical and Shakespeare, Comedic, Drama, Short Plays, Theatre

Venue: The Print Room at The Coronet


Low Down

Judy Hegarty Lovett and Conor Lovett bring their Gare St Lazare Ireland Beckett in London season to The Print Room’s Coronet in a series of dramatizations of his fiction. Three hours for the Trilogy compromising Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable.


Gare St Lazare Ireland with directors Judy Hegarty Lovett and Conor Lovett bring their Beckett in London season to The Print Room’s Coronet in a series of dramatizations of his fiction. Three hours might seem a little brief for the Trilogy compromising Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable which craics in at thirty-five minutes. As a whistle-stop Beckett stand-up it can hardly be bettered as Conor Lovett narrates the personae of this interlocking trilogy (which might be a sequence of five difficult pieces if we take two alter fictions as connected).

Molloy’s the first and most accessible and falls in two aprts – the second, a report on Molloy but some Jesuistical secretary is understandably shorn. Lovett proceeds by both Beckett’s indirections – full of significant pauses to guy statements with their comic qualifications – ‘or not’ or Lovett’s own. late in Molloy, and early in Malone Dies he loses his way, invoking audience aid (he gets it) to remind him of what he was not saying – ‘the telling’ loses him twice.

Molloy recalls the impossibility of avoiding charity in his progress to his mother’s housel close in age they’re mistaken as a couple, and she calls him Dan or Da, he Mag, or Ma. He adverts to numerical research to record 315 farts in 19 hours, only four every 15 minutes, ‘hardly .. any at all’. The papers he uses for warmth or toilet paper – the TLS is finest, dense and abrasively useful. Alas he accidentally presents a used wodge to a policeman and is almost arrested. As he is for accidentally killing a dog – on its way to be put down and hence saving a bill. This telegraphs a relationship Lovett here has to elide.

The speaker known as Malone proceeds by fable, his own life under a another name, a brief reference to Lambert the pig-slayer that vanishes and settling on the main narrative after Lovett evokes laughter with more animadversion on memory. McMahon is one of five particularly helpless inmates of a home of uncertain vintage. The sadistic Lemuel has murderous intent and finally on a command trip on a boat he enact this. Lovett oo leaps out of the stage in a unexpected access of breaking the circle of the Coronet’s mesmeric small O.

Lovett has differentiated the two characters but in truth it’s relatively difficult if you’re using similar comic techniques to render the very real humour Beckett undercuts his readership with. Beckett too was always open to – though rigorous about – adapting fictions his ‘important work’ – for the stage.

The Unnameable is different. Presented here as a far shorter rendition of a disembodied spirit who in fact sees all Beckett’s previous protagonists from 1938 onwards: ‘All these Murphys, Molloys and Malones do not fool me.’ The lighting which till now suffuse those Molloys and Malones with intensifying and shrinking light here becomes a shaft down which Lovett walks, to be reflected vastly on a backdrop in giant shadow like a puppet show; but that’s where the comedy ends and unpicking shadows is literally deadly serious. Tenebrous almost disembodied, Lovett relates with far less – not however extinct – humour in a more rapid less accommodating delivery the non-existence he sees embodied around him. This uningratiating sliver of the intense Beckett we know from dramas and indeed this novel is allowed a sliver of devastation: the temperature drops. ‘I can go on. I’ll go on.’ This shift is masterly and necessary.

For this space this can’t be bettered. There may be an argument for presenting all three of these fictions on consecutive nights, and perhaps there’s just a little too much lost. As in the very different Lawrence Trilogy at the NT Dorfman recently – three plays presented simultaneously – there’s a fear that attention spans won’t take it as they had in the 1960s with the same Lawrence plays. Yet Rhona Munro’s The James Plays disproves this. It’s my only caveat because otherwise it’s the perfect introduction to the original texts and there’s a CD of Lovett’s Molloy. The Becket Trilogy as presented here by the marvellously pause-prone Lovett is miraculous and faultless, funny and revelatory, immaculate as much as any three hours of prose Beckett can be. He’s up there now with Lisa Dwan as very probably the finest current Beckett interpreter, who understands – crucially – a tour de farce is as necessary as a tour de force. Direction and lighting are seamless.