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First Love

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
A man steps out from the audience and onto a stage that remains bare 
other than a stool that sits in the far corner while a solitary shaft 
of light brightens the stage's centre. As the reflective piano music 
that's been playing fades out, the man, dressed in buttoned-up charity 
shop suit and a hoodie underneath, proceeds to tell his story. Or 
rather, in the Cork-based Gare St Lazare Players latest rendering of 
Samuel Beckett's prose, one of many stories. Because there's a real 
sense of continuum in the company's approach that becomes increasingly 
clear with their every visit.

Much of this down to the solo performances by Conor Lovett as directed 
by Judy Hegarty Lovett in a spare and austere fashion. Both suggest 
that what's being said is just the latest episode in a life of incident 
and colour. Here, Lovett takes a novella penned by Beckett in 1948 but 
not published until 1971 and lifts it off the page with a dry sense of 
understatement that would give that other great Irish comic orator Dave 
Allen a run for his money.

Over eighty minutes, Lovett explains, or rather, confesses how a visit 
to his father's grave and an interrupted night's sleep on a park bench 
results in his moving into a two-room flat with a prostitute. As he 
recounts every awkward intimacy while acting out the niceties of 
courtship by rote, Lovett captures the real essence of flying blind 
into a partnership that's as dysfunctional but as necessary as any of 
Beckett's other co-dependents. When Lovett's narrator eventually walks 
away, his parting line may be full of loss, but there's hope too behind 
every word.

The Herald, May 28th 2013

ends

  

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