And yet this strange, irritating piece of post-Beckettian, self-erasing fiddle-faddle exerts a beguiling, hypnotic pull. Patrice Chereau’s production, designed by Richard Peduzzi and lit by Dominique Bruguiere, with a magically elemental sound score by Eric Neveux, is unusual, extraordinary, weird, and beautiful.
The theatre is bathed in a cold grey light. The ground level arena is a beach, with an expanse of water in the middle. Laskey as The Other carries Brooke as The One to the sea’s edge. He stands there with him for ages. A stranded pair of boots deliberately suggests they are Godot-like tramps. But this is beyond Beckett, and beyond a joke.
Are they brothers, lovers, companions? They go on a journey. A simple raft heaves out of the floor on a hydraulic lift. The men climb aboard, set sail, looking for coves and stop-offs. They eat a little, drink some schnapps and then, alarmingly, head out to the open sea. Suddenly, it all becomes incredibly exciting.
The seventy-minute – what is it? – play, interlude, poem, reveals nothing. Brooke, who looks like a boomerang, or an emaciated banana, says he is a concrete wall that’s cracking to pieces. He’s helpless. Laskey’s just hopeless, concerned about Brooke, eventually lost, heading towards a lighthouse on the hostile waters.
Make of it what you will. But you must see Chéreau’s work. This great director – whose films include Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy, in which Mark Rylance had “live” onscreen sex with Kerry Fox -- has not been represented on the London stage since his ravishing and disturbing version of Marivaux’s La Dispute visited the National Theatre thirty-five years ago. He paints theatre, but it’s a painting that lives and breathes and fades and dies, like its actors.