Starting with Endgame: Four Acts by Calla Videt

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, beginning with today's introduction.

ENDGAME: The end, the beginning, and the players in between

By Calla Videt '09 It is my 19th performance in the audience, and this is the last performance of Complicite’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame that I will see in the Duchess Theatre in London where I have been working with this company for four months. My plane leaves in four hours. I imagine myself only a couple hours from now, gazing out at all the planes milling on the runway. My mind struggles to grab hold of everything that has happened over the past four months.
I look over to my friend who is seeing this Endgame for the first time. I wonder what she is thinking. Did she see a final heave of Hamm dying that time? Did she feel that Clov was really leaving? Was she convinced this time that he had seen a boy out the window? These are all questions that have new answers night after night, different answers for different people, and more often, no answer at all. And yet, for me, it is the uncertainty itself that has made this play, this production and this process so entirely thrilling. When I came to London, I had no idea what to expect. Tomorrow, I will arrive in a different part of the world in the same way, certain only of uncertainty. In the words of Beckett himself, "One thing at least is certain…yet it’s not, not certain, what is not certain, absolutely certain." Why did I come here, to London, again? My first introduction to Complicite was seeing an extraordinary performance of Measure for Measure when I was in high school, which was followed by a workshop with the company’s artistic director Simon McBurney, whose boundless energy wasintoxicating, whose passion was contagious. Years later, I directed two Complicite productions at school and researched the company to an almost stalker-like degree. And so, as an aspiring theater maker myself, I had come to London to learn, to watch, to listen, to help. During the first week of rehearsal,Simon had proposed that we close our eyes and guess when ten minutes had elapsed. Try it sometime. It’s more difficult than you imagine. Time is funny that way. One day, I am sitting in a rehearsal. The next, it’s four months later, and I’m on a plane heading home. It seems like I arrived yesterday. "Ah, yesterday!" Beckett’s Nell exclaims, with an air of dreamy nostalgia. Everything circles around to itself.My thoughts race back to the present; I’m in the theater again. The audience is applauding. I look around at this dark and enchanting space for the final time. Somehow, I’m already jetlagged. My friend nods at me, not knowing what to say. "It’s finished," Clov states at the beginning of the play. "The end is in the beginning and yet you go on," Hamm declares later. But it is never finished. Even now, as the audience spills out onto the sidewalk, the play lives. The sharp sunlight is a shock. "Ah yes," I remember, "Wednesday matinees can really warp your sense of time." In a way, though, it seems fitting—this daylight. It’s like coming up for breath after traveling inside the earth for a long, long time, on an archeological expedition of digging, searching, finding, then getting lost again. Every journey begins with a series of questions. And although I’m at the end of this one, my head continues to buzz. Working on a play by Samuel Beckett with a group like Complicite, there are no answers. Clov may leave. Clov may not leave. In working with Complicite, satisfaction comes not with certainty, but with discovery, doubt and relentless curiosity. Satisfaction can often come from perpetual dissatisfaction. What comes next? I have no idea. I’ve pried a door open and let some light in. I can make out shapes but do not yet know what they are. My eyes are still getting acquainted with the post-matinee daylight. I’d like to see what’s lurking behind this door. I may never know but, for now, I’m content to keep guessing.

TOMORROW: ACT I -- OPENING 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.

[Caption: Dutchess Theatre in London's West End]

[Caption: Simon McBurney PHOTO: Sarah Ainslie]

[Caption: Complicite's Endgame PHOTO: Sarah Ainslie]