Starting with Endgame: ACT II

by Guest Blogger

Editor’s note: Last fall, Calla Videt ‘09 worked on a professional production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame with Complicite, an ensemble theater company in London. This week, Harvard Arts Beat is running Videt’s four-part behind-the-scenes series about her experiences. You can read the introduction HERE and ACT I HERE. Today’s installment is ACT II.

ACT II: POWER GAMES

By Calla Videt

Beckett’s (End)Game: We start to work with the text of the play, while maintaining the structure of an exercise. Taped along the floor is a checkerboard of nine squares (making up one large square). Mark and Simon McBurney, Complicite's artistic director, deliver their lines—moving between corners of the squares only when there is a pause. Beckett’s pauses are very deliberately specified in the text and this helps to clarify and accentuate them. With the unit of time now accompanied by a translation in space, we are better able to get a grasp on Beckett’s complex score. And not only does this help the actors to ‘feel’ the rhythm, eventually their movements begin to resemble the game of chess and power dynamics soon again infiltrate the exercise. Occasionally, the actors stop moving to decipher the text at the table. Groping around for a bit like this, we begin to unearth a new fragility to the way both characters influence and manipulate each other.

Hamming it up: The morning ends by picking up at the part of the play where we last left off. It’s tough going at first. But soon after we actually get Mark back in the armchair, we hit a nugget of humor with Hamm and Clov transforming into a sort of absurd hilarious duo. Their banter is accompanied by physical actions which mimic one another. Mark is up all over the chair, his arms (and only free limbs) waving all around. His switches between gentleness and cruelty are astounding. Perhaps our warm ups have helped to unearth this new energy. The dog moment, in particular, is hilarious. What makes the situation even more absurd is that this is now the third dog which our stage manager Ian has painstakingly constructed by hand. As specified in the play, it is not supposed to stand. And yet, miraculously, it does. Much to Ian’s chagrin, Simon turns and asks, "Maybe the legs could be a bit longer?"

At the end of this little canter, Simon quotes the play again, "Things are livening up!"

It’s true—something has been unlocked this morning. Doug jokes, "I hate to say it, but I felt a lot of complicity between the two of you." Mark counters, "But was it as good as Marcel Marceau?"

As Hamm would say, "We’re getting on" … in a way.

1:30pm: We break for lunch. The Beckett, however, remains always present. There is a casual discussion of design. Simon talks about the set being ceiling-less, with the walls receding upwards—giving the space an infinite boundlessness. He is thinking about a heavy spring on the door which will snap closed as Clov enters and exits. He considers the look of a dirty Oriental silk robe for Hamm.

TOMORROW: ACT III WORD GAMES

Here’s more about Calla Videt and about Complicite.

Here’s the Harvard Gazette story about Calla Videt’s senior project The Space Between, which was performed last year at Harvard.