Saturday, 6 September 2008


Went to the Young Vic to see Peter Brook's production of Samuel Beckett's Fragments, which is back in town for a few weeks. I missed it first time round, so am very pleased to get a second crack. The mesmerising Kathryn Hunter and mercurial Marcello Magni (who Kasia brings in to St.Mary's to run workshops from time to time) are joined for this run by Khalifa Natour.

I've always thought Beckett was fun, even at his most bleak moments, and these short pieces are packed with jokes and humour. The most wonderful image of the evening came in Act Without Words II where a large gardening spike, a God of sorts, gently drops from the ceiling and pokes first Marcello and then Khalifa awake from the plastic sacks they've been sleeping in.

Marcello, the disgruntled fatalist, first prays and then fights the day. He struggles to dress, to eat, to move his bags, to piss, to put on his hat, to undress and to settle for the night. Each blow greeted by a grunt. a glance upwards and an acknowledgement to the audience. Finally he sleeps and the spike God moves onto Khalifa.

Khalifa is joyeous. He repeats each of Marcello's daily functions, but every action is efficient, smooth, flowing and concluded with a check of the watch and satisfied nod that the routine of life is both upheld and controlled. He sings, he dances and loves each progressive moment of a the passing day. Eventually he too sleeps. God descends once again (as oblivious as a stick can be to the contrasting moods) to poke Marcello and the cycle begins again in all its ridiculousness.

In contrast to the clowning, Rockaby shows Kathryn at her most brilliant, nuanced and committed, as an elderly woman, poised between life and death, trying to make sense of a specific moment of being. It's the most amazing, vunerable performance, completely uncluttered by vanity.

The whole show is only a hour long, but you leave, having laughed in the face of the outrageous fortune that life offers, feeling refreshed and, as with all fantastic comedy, stronger and ready to burst any bubbles blowing around in your own life.

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