The Beckett Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies & The Unnamable, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – Review


Directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett, the Gare St Lazare Players Ireland bring to the stage an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s seminal trilogy in a marathon performance that reaches almost three-and-a-half hours. The sole performer Conor Lovett enacts a brilliantly lucid performance of Beckett’s writing that captures his humour and absurdist style, whilst making accessible the recondite nature of his material. Devoid of props, Lovett is aided only by a single spotlight; appropriate for Beckett’s minimalist approach, yet sufficient enough for storytelling. Through Lovett’s facial expressions clarity is given to the piece, as distinctions between the characters portrayed in each story are made more obvious.

As the play lacks an ongoing narrative and prolonged character development, it is difficult to define any semblance of a plot to someone unfamiliar with Beckett’s work. However, whilst Malloy and Malone Dies do feature characterisable protagonists and a determinable story – the former following a vagrant man who visits his mother for charity, despite not knowing where she lives, and the latter a bedridden man who recounts stories whilst waiting for death – The Unnamable has no coherent storyline. Instead, it favours a philosophical exposition of one character’s questioning of the metaphysical. This final act is the most dark, questioning the point of existence and attempting to comprehend the ‘nothing’ prevalent in death. Beautifully capturing the torment of a being that can no longer exist and yet who fears the transition to death, Lovett exquisitely delivers the closing lines: “I can’t go on, I’ll go on”.

The confusion of the protagonist, combined with the ontological incomprehensibility of this tragic character, is incredibly powerful. The climax of this impenetrable position is shown by the character’s fear of silence and the loss of his voice, which leads him to question whether they exist as a person or merely in the language used to describe a person. Overall, it is very well acted, with Lovett doing an excellent job of capturing the essence of Beckett’s writing. While a difficult trilogy, Lovett transforms Beckett’s works into an accessible watch. However, due to the nature of the play, it is arguably too intense to be viewed in a single sitting, as its lack of a narrative structure and deep existentialist questions make it a lot to take in.

Taken from The Journal, published Wed Feb 9th 2011.

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