Everyman Palace, Cork ****
This Godot Company production of Samuel Beckett’s comic/tragic, full-length play has a hellish premise. Winnie is embedded up to her waist in clay (represented by an encasement of canvas) under constant bright light.
Her husband, Willie (Oengus MacNamara), is nearby, but sometimes disappears into his cave. He’s not much consolation. He says little, apart from reading out snippets from a newspaper and grunting monosyllabically in reply to his wife’s questions.
Winnie is a role that demands a cheeriness at odds with the character’s situation. Colette Kelly conveys a woman determined to keep up a bright front, despite the futility of doing so.
Winnie is an incessant talker, for whom the presence of Willie is important. Even if he ignores her, she can take some comfort from the fact that he hears her, wittering on with her memories and literary allusions. “This will have been another happy day,” she intones regularly.
The play starts with Winnie praying, and passing the hours between the bell for waking and the bell for sleeping. She tries to impose the framework of a day onto the relentless time spent under a hot sun. But it is a false concept in her bewildering, barren world. Her routine involves taking out items from her black bag. As well as a comb and a compact, the typical contents of a woman’s bag, Winnie has a revolver, which she places on the corner of the canvas.
In the second act, Winnie, now buried up to her neck, has visibly aged. Her optimism is fading and she no longer prays. She still talks of happy days, but fails to smile after such utterances.
This could be a post-apocalyptic play. But its nihilism is tempered with the effort to look on the bright side, however increasingly difficult this becomes.
Winnie is clearly going to be swallowed up by the earth. But she is in denial.
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