Set in a bare, partially underground room, Endgame finds a wheelchair-bound Hamm (Rylance) passing the time by ordering his servant Clov (McBurney) to move him around, fetch objects and peer out the window for signs of life, while his bin-dwelling parents Nagg and Nell look on. Miriam Margolyes and Tom Hickey co-star as Nell and Nagg in the four-hander.
Endgame was last seen in the West End in 2004, when Matthew Warchus directed a cast led by Michael Gambon and Lee Evans at the Albery Theatre (See News, 15 Dec 2003). The new Complicite production is directed by McBurney – with Marcello Magni, Douglas Rintoul and Ian Rickson all listed as associate directors – and designed by Tim Hatley, with costumes by Christina Cunningham, and sound by Christopher Shutt.
Based on the verdicts of overnight critics, if you’re a fan of Beckett, you could be in for a treat. In enthusiastic four-star reviews, Endgame’s champions declared that the “linguistically sensitive” poetry of Beckett has been “given brilliant expression” by director McBurney, “the greatest theatre-maker of his generation”, teamed here with Rylance, the “greatest actor”, who has once again surpassed his own “genius”. However, those in the middle were left “strangely unmoved” by the production and Rylance’s “oddly lightweight, non-magisterial” Hamm. The fiercest detractor, the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts, had no problem with Rylance’s “performance of characteristic commitment” but still struggled to stay awake during the “stupendously boring play” of “tedious self-pretension”.