Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. January 2011.
Let me get one thing clear: this was three hours and twenty minutes of Beckett. Which is a lot; maybe even too much, you might think. However, as I am widely acknowledged to be a very irritating theatre-seat-fidgeter, the fact my companion didn’t feel the need to kill me says a lot about how compelling this was.
The Trilogy is a set of three monologues, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable. Each was performed by Conor Lovett, whose beautifully hypnotic accent kept me enthralled throughout. There was no set, no costume changes, no effects, no music – just us, Lovett and a spotlight. Sparse indeed.
It was a good job, then, that Lovett allowed the humour of Beckett’s writing – which could easily have been submerged in the intensity of the Trilogy – to come through. Keeping the audience laughing was a wise directorial choice in such a long piece. Molloy in particular initiated a good few chuckles – somewhat alarmingly, especially during Molloy’s description of communicating with his mother by knocking on her head: one knock for yes, two for no, and so on.
Another interesting directorial choice was the manipulation of the light from one section to the next. In Molloy, Lovett acted entirely within a sharply defined circle of light; in Malone Dies the whole stage was dimly lit; and in The Unnamable a strip of light was cast along the stage and up the back wall. The way the light hit Lovett made his shadow look like a different character, and this was exploited to its full potential: after acting with his shadow during the piece, at the end Lovett turned to the wall and walked into his shadow – cue blackout and rapturous applause from the audience. This disappearing act was a beautiful end to the Trilogy.
In Malone Dies, we are told that the only words a couple need to know to have a successful relationship are ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘more’, and ‘enough’. Well, this theatre marathon was definitely enough – if only because my back took a few days to recover from the Traverse’s bench seats. But it also gets a resounding YES, from me and everyone else lucky enough to get a ticket: Lovett received a standing ovation, and very well deserved it was too.
Originally published in The Student.