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First Love

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Four stars
Watching Samuel Beckett is a bit like listening to Country and Western 
music. The older you get, it seems, the more you understand where 
they're coming from. This is likely to have been the case for many who 
saw all five productions of the Edinburgh International Festival's 
season of Beckett's non-stage works. This final piece, produced by 
Dublin's Gate Theatre, finds actor Peter Egan transforming Beckett's 
brief and at times brutal novella into an extended solo routine to die 
for.

It begins beside a grave and ends with a baby's cry, as Egan's lone 
figure regales the audience with a life and death yarn that begins with 
him telling how he associates his brief 'marriage' to a woman he meets 
on a bench with his father's death. Used to keeping both himself and 
others at an emotional distance, the affection he feels for the woman 
he first calls Lulu and later Anna catches him by surprise. Even as he 
moves into the room next to hers, however, he can feel the love he has 
let into his life dissipating after just one night of passion, and once 
a child is born, he can stand it no longer, and flees.

Egan relates all this in Toby Frow's production with a gloriously 
unsentimental gallows humour which, as he relives every moment of his 
and Lulu/Anna's liaison, turns out to be a form of self-protection. As 
assorted doors and windows are discreetly projected behind him, he 
remembers the song she sang, but not the words, however much it haunts 
him still in a life spent trying to purge something that will never go 
away in this bitter-sweet hymn of regret.

The Herald August 29th 2013

ends

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