Beckett Triptych
State Theatre Company of South Australia @ State Theatre Workshop
11:00am, Thu 12 Mar 2015
State Theatre’s contribution to this year’s Festival is a hefty affair: not so much in duration (the three Beckett short plays that comprise the Triptych weighed in at a little over two hours total), but in production effort: each of the performances takes place on a different stage, with a different actor… and director.
Footfalls kicks off proceedings, and sees Pamela Rabe pacing up and back, wearing a path in the carpet. The rhythm of her pacing is almost meditative: nine steps, turn. Nine steps, turn. She is May; she converses with her unseen and sickly mother in the next room. There is conflict between them – unexplored regret and trauma separate them – but the conversation seems almost cyclical, destined to never conclude… and still May methodically plods along. Geordie Brookman’s contemplative direction is gorgeous, with the type of light-play that makes me melt: faces drift in and out of shadow in the most lovely fashion.
A shift of venue – somewhat unexpected and problematic for the silver-topped in the audience – takes us to Eh Joe, in which Paul Blackwell has a non-speaking role sitting at the foot of a bed whilst a disembodied female voice tells him how worthless he is. A scrim over the front of the stage acts as a screen for live video of Blackwell’s face, and the camera zooms right in to show us every twitch of pained response and every bead of guilty sweat… it’s all about the eyes, but there’s nothing as dramatic as tears to punctuate the scene. Instead, the scrim is an almost tortuous window into a confused soul. The colourless set – which remained hidden until Blackwell turned on the lights in his grim flat – only contributes to the loneliness generated; Corey McMahon’s direction was nothing less than stellar.
In contrast to the first two pieces, Krapp’s Last Tape is almost lighthearted, with a tease of an opening as Peter Carroll (Krapp) ominously drops a banana peel on the floor in his cluttered set… his subsequent glance to the audience was sublime. But then Krapp continues reviewing the reel-to-reel tapes he has laying around, eventually going on to record the titular final entry in these magnetic diaries; there is a tangible loneliness to his present, but director Nescha Jelk keeps things fairly airy… aided by Carroll’s fabulously expressive face. Krapp’s Last Tape was by far the most arresting of the Triptych for me: the humour made it more immediately accessible, but it was the idea of Krapp’s introspection of his own words from another time that tickled me the most.
The three pieces have some commonality (other than playwright): the sound, set, and costume designers, as well as others on the creative team, are shared across the performances, giving them a common muted aesthetic that prevents the Triptych from feeling too disparate. But, more importantly, I felt that each of the plays were introspective – but from differing perspectives – and there were recurring themes of ageing and isolation… ideas that I’ve been dwelling upon due to my elderly parents. But associate introspection with melancholy, throw in a bit of absurdism, and I’m a happy camper… and this production of the Beckett Triptych made me very happy indeed. Kudos, State!
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 12, 2015