'VHF Royal Shakespeare Company has brought much prestige to the country: children who see Shakespeare's work for the first time, played by these actors, are lucky. Their craftsmanship, in production and acting, sets an example the young should aspire to and the older should have attempted.
Having said that, I confess that the chmpany's recent policy when selecting contemporary work puzzles me. A visit to the Aldvvych these nights is like a visit to Madam Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors. After reconnaissance one feels the children should be ten years older before they accompany Pa and Ma.
The activated =Dims have taken over. They perform in a moral and spiritual vacuum, pull ing horrid faces, try i lig, it appears, to frighten the audience, which seems superfluous.
Intellectual Petit Guignol bores those who remember Europe 1945: it will not inspire the young to face up to a world in a mess.
The bleak existential dignity of Mr. Scofield's senile King Lear said all that need be said of the world that died. The composition was sane and inspired stoic courage.
Afore Night Comes it a bad play and worse, a concoction in the haute cuisine of the new hysteria elaborated to a point of obscenity. The "religious" attitude of the company to Mr. Samuel Beckott's endgame is pathetic, as if it were trying to extract from a mindless sign a "non-religion". Mr. Beckett writes like Mr. J. B. Morton with the laughter drained out, which is an achievement. He is the only comic writer in the history of the theatre who has made a career and a reputation out of being resolutely unfunny.
"endgame" should be the end but, one suspects, it won't be. Mr. Jack MacGuwran, who plays Cloy, has made himself a sort of ' bishop" of the Beckett cult. He writes pastoral letters and exegetic commentaries.
In a programme note he admonishes the audience not to seek "hidden meanings" in the master's work. Mr. MacGowran made that mistake: now he is enlightened. "Every night one plays this play," he writes, "more and more =cram from it," Every night Mr. MacGowran plays this play he earns his beer and biscuits. He is an actor working for an audience. If we take Mr. Beckett as seriously as he preaches, we must watch "endgame" every night and Mr. MacGowran will earn more beer and more biscuits.
He implies that the audience should find in "endgame" a substitute for the liturgy — and if they haven't a liturgy they might adopt the scriptures according to Beckett. "It has given me," he
solemnly proclaims, an absolutely new sense of values."
Absolutely new? One wonders what happened to Mr.
MacGowran's old sense of values.
He omits to define the unhidden meaning of "endgame" but con cludes by finding a parallel between Mr. Beckett and Shakespeare. Samuel, it seems, is Mr. MacGowran's prophet. The set is good, like the interior of a disused hoot warehouse, a version, with square grey knobs
on, of Mr. Ralph Koltai's earlier design for The Representative.
Front left, there are twin dustbins, centre a chair on castors, all covered by dustsheets.
Enter Mr. MacGowran, looking like Junius Brutus Booth doing a soft shoe shuffle in the way of old vaudeville actors, He removes the dustsheets and we see Mr.
Patrick Magee made-up as Ernest Hemingway, with smoking cap, opaque spectacles and a hangover.
Nell and Nage. Hamm's parents, live in the dustbins. They suffer. (everyone suffers). from senility and nostalgia, symptoms of the common disease. humanity.
More than forty years ago. Mr. Eliot wrote in a larger context of the world ending with a whimper: what Mr. Eliot succinctly said, Mr. Beckett, failing to imagine a context, elaborates, drawing it out, orchestrated by his players with grunts and pauses, for ninety-two minutes.
Cloy is Hamm's slave or alter ego. Hamm is the tyrant, or king. Hamm's father, Nagg, whinges for sugar plums and a time when Hamm, a boy. cried to him in the dark. Nell, Hamm's mother, languishes for a day when she and Nagg went boating on Lake Como, They talk, Hamm snarls at everyone (including the audience), Cloy contributes his two cents, as the Americans say, and looks from the windows, the parents die (in their dustbins), the arrogant king.
Hamm. is left, he thinks, alone. while Mr. MacGowran, made-up like a Beetle impersonating Miss Irene Handl, hovers, Hamm calls for his father and sinks into reposeful death, or deathlike repose. You pays your money and . .
They're having a merry time down at the Aldwych these nights. They chop off no one's head in "endgame", but what they did to our heads was quite as effective: just slower.
Typical of the current run of boneless playwriting is The First Fish (Savoy), a flat, floundering C omedy with uncomfortable characters and a weak moral. All that can he said in favour is the performance of Moira Lister in the role of a standard American housewife who, realising that her husband no longer responds to her fading charm, decides to cal in some expensive femininity for his appreciation.
Mr. Terloff's humour is neither American nor English—nor is it funny.