Written just after 'Waiting for Godot', and first performed in 1957, 'Endgame' is generally considered to be one of Beckett’s greatest plays. Director, Richard Jones brings together a star cast for this vibrant production at the Old Vic. Buy tickets below.

Holed up inside an empty apartment with windows so high, a stepladder is needed to peer out, Alan Cummings plays Hamm, the dramatic, irascible, blind master of the house and Danielle Radcliffe plays his desperately frustrated servant, Clov. Radcliffe shuffles urgently around the space, with hilarious and painful repetition, unable to stop for a minute whilst the emaciated Hamm, stuck his huge chair, waves his arms around and shrieks, summoning and dismissing with equal measure. Trapped inside two metal bins a few feet away are Hamm’s aged parents, Nagg and Nell played by Karl Johnson and Jane Horrocks. They are all too familiar characters, even in their abstraction, discarded by the next generation and fading fast, telling stories that nobody wants to hear anymore.

At the time of writing, the sense of impending doom may well have sprung from the possibility of nuclear annihilation but in the current climate, Jones’ production has more than a hint of a global climate catastrophe. But we are saved from despair by Beckett’s humour and verbal wit which ripples across the stage even as the tides stop, the sun disappears, and the temperature is locked on permanent zero.

I expect few people come to the Old Vic to see the little known, ‘Rough for Theatre II’ with it’s far from catchy title but it turns out to be delicious appetiser for the main ‘Endgame.’ Running at 30 minutes before the interval, it’s a fresh discovery for most and a mind-boggling introduction for those unfamiliar with Beckett.

Two office staff played by Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe sit at desks with a faulty desk-lamp flickering on and off. They become increasingly infuriated by the lamp or each other whilst reviewing the mental health of a man who is currently standing on the ledge of the window in between them, preparing to jump. The interface between a silent, suicidal man with an ‘inner reservoir of sorrow’ and the disinterested tone of those instructed to decide his fate is both hilarious and chilling at a time when the failings of our own mental health services are increasingly visible. The paperwork is certainly more extensive than the attempts at human contact. Part of the brilliance of this piece is the insistently 2 D effect of Stewart Laing’s cut out set and the precise staging which creates an unforgettable image of a moment frozen in time.

Cummings and Radcliffe deliver detailed and playful performances both sides of the interval, a reminder if one was needed, that Beckett was as much a comic writer as a philosopher.

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