“Endgame”, a summit of theatrical sorcery

Scene from “Endgame” © Pierre Grosbois

Let’s put it like this: one of the best In shows is given in the Off, every day at the Théâtre des Halles, one of the permanent theater venues in Avignon, directed by Alain Timar. It picks you up on the stroke of 4 p.m., you come out two hours later, both fulfilled and devastated.

Beckett is a wizard: his play, Game over, of extreme precision, replicas and stage directions combined. From the first words: “iinterior without furniture. Greyish light “. With humility and pride, the director and his actors follow the entire score to the letter. We don’t quibble with genius, we drink our potion without hesitation, without playing the smartest, we try to be up to it, roped together, to the top. They reach it and drag us away.

After Head for the worst, The last band and The imagewith Game over, this is the fourth time that Jacques Osinski has crossed a Beckett with Denis Lavant. On the other hand, it is the first time that he has directed Frédéric Leidgens. It is also the first time that these two exceptional actors have found themselves together on a set. The first whose body seems to precede speech, the second whose interior seems the preamble to expression. Clov (Lavant), the servant, the old retarded child, once taken in by the other, older, Hamm (Leidgens) the master who cannot get out of his chair on wheels, his eyes closed behind his dark glasses, a cloth bloodied on his face before folding it up and putting it in his pocket. Hamm calls Clov using his whistle which he wears around his neck. One moves and speaks little, he never stops going to his kitchen, he “to do”, Hamm, without moving, has the wandering chatter. One depends on the other and vice versa.

The play ends with their possibly irreversible separation. First words of the piece spoken by Clov: It’s over, it’s over, it’s going to end, maybe it’s going to end “. Last words of the play spoken by Hamm after throwing the whistle and guessing the (final?) exit of the other. ” Clov! (a long time). Nope ? Good. (He takes out his handkerchief).Since it plays like that…(he unfolds the handkerchief)…let’s plays it like that….(he unfolds)…and let’s not talk about it anymore…(he finishes unfolding)…Let’s stop talking about it. (he holds the handkerchief open in front of him at arm’s length) Lifeux laundry ! (A time). You – I keep you. A time. he holds the handkerchief to his face. As one closes off the face of a dead person. A writing of unparalleled precision.

It’s finish. What more can be said ?

Shortly after the end of the show, I asked Denis Lavant how he had invented this quirky and wobbly footwork that he does not leave throughout the piece and that he deploys to begin with using a stepladder like Beckett indicates it. The actor then takes out of his pocket an old copy of the play, which has appeared like all of Beckett’s work at Editions de Minuit, and shows me the bottom of the first page: ” Stiff and wobbly gait “. Everything is said by Beckett. But everything is to be done, to be translated by the actor. Denis Lavant speaks Beckett fluently (humble and exhausting work), his character, less educated, is much less talkative than the voice of his master.

Nailed to his chair, deprived of gaze and ample movement, Frédéric Leigdens in the role of Hamm, in addition to the words his character uses willingly, deploys a limited register from which he harvests: sometimes slight movements of the bust and head , and above all his bare hands which are like unfolding impeded wings. It is infinitesimal and fabulous. However, sometimes everything is torn apart (Beckett has more than one trick up his sleeve), such as this sequence with the stuffed three-legged dog or this sudden violence as if coming from another world: ” get the hell out of me, backrnotez at your feetrfuck! “. On the one hand, towards the end, this reference by Hamm to a verse by Baudelaire (” You were asking for the evening, he comes down, here he is” ), on the other these words of Clov which sound strange today: I’m so stooped that I can only see my feet, if I open my eyes, and between my legs a bit of blackish dust. I tell myself thate the earth is extinguished, although I have never seen it lit. (A time). VSit goes by itself. (A time). When I will fallI I will cry of happiness. »

In his presentation, Jacques Osinski cites a letter that Beckett wrote to his wife when he was working at Game over : “ It’s strange to feel both strong and on the brinkffre “. The piece deploys this double movement and Osinski highlights the share of humanity and domestic cruelty that it conceals and that Nagg (Peter Bonke) and Nell (Claudine Delvaux) also deploy, Hamm’s father and mother locked up each in a jar, sometimes lifting the lid, talking, then not lifting it again.

Avignon, Théâtre s des Halles, 4 p.m., until July 28. Resumption next season at the Théâtre de l’Atelier in Paris, from January 19 to February 26.


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“Endgame”, a summit of theatrical sorcery

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