PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL THEATRE REVIEW: Samuel Beckett: Fragments

Bringing classic and revered writers like Samuel Beckett into being is a treat for the seasoned and new theatergoer as he speaks of an “uncompromising celebration of one who looks truth in the face, unknown, terrible, amazing….”
PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL THEATRE REVIEW: Samuel Beckett: Fragments
Bringing classic and revered writers like Samuel Beckett into being is a treat for the seasoned and new theatergoer as he speaks of an “uncompromising celebration of one who looks truth in the face, unknown, terrible, amazing….” As quoted by this theatre show’s esteemed director Peter Brook. Beckett is world renowned for his play Waiting for Godot which makes its own comment on man's absurd hope and on the absurd insignificance of man. Four short pieces and a poem comprise this touring co-production from Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris and the Young Vic Theatre in London for the Perth International Arts Festival 2009. Rough for Theatre 1, Rockaby, Act Without Words 11, Neither and Come and Go have a unifying sensibility of peering into the filthy abyss of human existence. Their saving grace is the ability through Beckett’s words and detailed stage directions to find humour in all situations and this is never so more apparent than in the latter pieces on offer. All the pieces rely on a unity that theatre can bring into bear: a unity of sound, movement, rhythm, breath and silence that is perfectionist in its detail and delivery. The use of only mime in Act Without Words 11 is desperate and funny in turns. A 10 minute piece involving two players, A and B, who are in two large sacks on the stage. The visual antics of these two is underscored by the subtext of the existence of God or an existential notion that life is finite. A is ‘slow, awkward and absent’ whereas B is ‘brisk, rapid, precise” as they combat their status in life. Come and Go is a three-hander where three women meet in a softly lit place. Seated on a bench facing the audience, they reminisce about old school days. Beckett’s ability to humorously juxtapose these three women tells of our human foibles in a neat and simple way that only a true master class playwright could achieve. Peter Brook, as director is one of the few highly distinguished directors of our time, and is committed to exploring the meaning and essence of theatre. Nothing is sacred and he rejects dogma and closed systems of thought. His book The Empty Space is highly regarded and an influential work for theatre-makers. Fragments is a work that is cleverly programmed to work effectively as it delves the depths of human despair and loneliness and alienation with Rough for Theatre 1 and Rockaby and then alarms and entrances with the final three pieces. The use of lighting states that mark intervals in the works is almost filmic and very soothing to behold as you prepare for the next challenging theatre scene. With three European actors, Brook has not compromised in gaining professional performances with verve and tension that are not strained but delightful to watch and entice swags of laughter from the opening night audience. The overall impact of the night is one of a highly sophisticated night in the theatre with some of the highest standards reached in bringing a genius to life such as Samuel Beckett. Samuel Beckett: Fragments at the Perth Festival '09 http://www.perthfestival.com.au/theatre/fragments/ Festival Info: 6488 5555 Where: Octagon Theatre, UWA Address: 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley Phone: (08) 9380 2691

Gillian Clark

Sunday 15 February, 2009

About the author

Gill Clark is an arts hub reviewer based in Perth.