Endgame at the Old Vic – theatre review

2nd March 2022 · 2020, 2020s, Film

A member of the audience died when I went to see Endgame at the Old Vic. And the show really did go on… more’s the pity.

Endgame 

by Samuel Beckett

The Old Vic – February 2020

Director: Richard Jones

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Cumming, Jane Horrocks, Karl Johnson.

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The Old Vic production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame has had what we might kindly call mixed reviews, largely ranging from “mediocre” to “not very good” so I thought I would add my two pennworth to the mix.

My overriding, overwhelming, insurmountable problem is Daniel Radcliffe. I cannot abide that little shit with his undersized body and oversized head, his Estuarine whine, his gormless grin and his incessant overacting.
 
It’s all emphasised by the director’s ludicrous approach to the play, replacing a cruelly cryptic dissection of power and privilege with pantomime-style “physical comedy.”
 
It was all made much much worse by the constantly chortling Potterati all around me, including the young woman in the next seat, who stood up to take photos at the curtain call, inevitably ONLY of Radcliffe.
 
I first saw Endgame at school (possibly with Rupert Everett as Clov) and it was a deadpan affair, filled with tension and gloom: existential angst amid the spectre of decay and death.
 
This was a knockabout farce featuring Harry fucking Potter with a comedy limp, clomping up and down stepladders and sliding down them again, constantly slapping himself in the face (I was way ahead of him there) while gurning at the audience as if to say: “Look at me! I’m not just that kid from Harry Potter. I’m an ACTOR! Look at me ACTING!”
 
That’s acting as in “acting the fool” – a far cry from Olivier.
 
Poor old Alan Cumming: at least his wheelchair-bound condition, complete with artificial legs of terrifying thinness, meant he had to tone down the queeny campness he brings to most of his other performances as if he’s modelled his entire career on the life and works of John Inman and is now the only gay actor in the history of what is already (with apologies to hairdressers) the gayest profession in the world.
 
I don’t remember there being a homoerotic element to the play I saw all those years ago but he’s predictably managed to find one here, injecting double-entendres where there are none in the script, as if Mr Humphries has suddenly “entered from the rear” of the stage.
 
To be fair the play seemed to go down well with the audience, apart from the one who died during the second act, a ray of light for the rest of us when someone ran onstage and asked us all to leave the theatre… until an announcement that the show would resume.
 
I thought it was fucking awful, fucking interminable and fucking depressing – but not in a Beckettian way. And the blink-and-you-missed-it cameos by Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson were barely worth them getting into dustbins for.
 
The two principals displayed a strange compulsion to go through the fourth wall at every opportunity, with a nod and a wink at the audience at each scripted reference to boredom.
 
Never mind that the play is about the agony of existence – not the tedium of watching it being performed.
 
“It’s finished, it must be nearly finished,” says Clov at one point (although not soon enough), to which I could only think: “Please let it be true.” But it wasn’t.
 
Not even when Hamm, living up to his name, starts whining about the inevitability of – yes, you guessed – the end, the end, the END, reinforcing that oh-so-subtle double meaning by smirking and nodding and winking, as if the audience might be too fucking thick to get the irony of it all unless he holds up a big sign saying “Geddit?”
 

And he may well have been right.