Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars Isolation may be the crux of Samuel Beckett's literary and dramatic canon, yet such is his waggishly profound understanding of the human condition that it connects in a way that mere navel-gazing never could. So it goes in the Cork-based Gare St Lazare company's latest dissection of Beckett-world, a solo rendition by Conor Lovett of a short story first published in 1955. A monologue from the point of view of a man discharged from some form of institution forced to make his way in the world alone, what starts out as a kind of picaresque rake's progress becomes a slow decline into self-negation, until Lovett literally vanishes. With only two wooden benches onstage, Lovett may be clad in charcoal suit and tacketty boots, but, as directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett, his is a more understatedly casual approach to Beckett than mere clowning around. Instead, Lovett relates his yarn of seeking refuge in a near roofless, dilapidated shed and the pure private joy of scratching an itch with a sense of intimacy that charms and amuses without ever feeling self-consciously peculiar. Over eighty-five delicious minutes, Lovett captures the depth behind every hesitant nuance of Beckett's wordplay as he did in his previous three-hour rendition of his muse's early trilogy of novels. It might be argued too that, in the pre care-in-the-community society Beckett depicts, there is a quietly political point to the story of such a displaced figure. If so, it never forces the issue, as somehow out of the mire it becomes clear that there is a profound difference between being lonely and just being alone in this most solitary of pleasures.
The Herald, February 20th 2012 ends