Review: Footfalls and Play

4 star rating
Repetition dominates in this programme of two short plays by master of the abstract, Samuel Beckett, and here impressively executed by director John Patterson and Angel Theatre Company.
Footfalls and Play at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre<p class=Image courtesy Angel Theatre Company



Closes here: Saturday 9 March 2019

Author:
Samuel Beckett

Director:
John Patterson

Cast:

Anna Bonnett - May

Samantha Kamras - Woman 2

Pearl Marsland - Voice

Rose Trustman - Woman 1

Ricky Zalman - Man


Synopsis


A ghostly figure paces a bare strip of landing outside her dying mother's room …


Three identical urns contain a man, his wife and his mistress …


In Footfalls and Play Beckett offers a bleak, yet tragicomic, view of human existence.


Best known for works such as Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape and Happy Days, this double bill offers a fascinating glimpse into the unique world of Samuel Beckett.


His plays have revolutionised theatre and secured his place as one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century.


He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.


Background


Previous productions include: Can't Stand up for Falling Down, Eavesdropping, More Eavesdropping, 4:48 Psychosis, No Exit, The Maids, Autobahn and Eavesdropping Again.

ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 28 February 2019
Review star rating image

Two short, one act plays from Samuel Beckett, playwright of 'Waiting for Godot' fame, make up this hour long programme.


The title is slightly misleading in that the order of events is the wrong way round.


The play entitled Play actually comes first and Footfalls second.


When we file into the theatre, we hear a kind of undercurrent of mutterings from several people, that is unintelligible.

Footfalls and Play

(From left) Samantha Kamras, Ricky Zalman, Rose Trustman - photo by Angel Theatre Company


In the darkness on stage we see the shadowy outlines of three containers which look like water butts from the garden, or large earthenware pots, lined-up in a row.


They're about 3 feet tall, pretty much as the playwright required.


Actually, they are not meant to be just any old pots, but urns of the funeral variety.


When Play actually starts, we find the pots each contain a person.


Well, to be more precise, we only see their heads poking-out from the top of each urn.


There's a man in the middle urn and two women at each end of the row - separated by, but (symbolically at least) connected to the man in the middle.


Their heads are daubed with mud or clay suggesting that they're no longer alive, but dead and decaying.


Occasionally, all three characters speak together.


Most of the time, though, the characters speak separately, but only when illuminated by a strong light that acts almost as a fourth character, interrogating the others.


The basic plot is that M (for man) has had an affair with one of the women and the other is his wife.


Play is apparently based on Beckett's own rather difficult relationships and seems to regard hell (or the afterlife) as a kind of a never-ending re-examination of a tortuous love triangle.


In Footfalls, May is pacing along what looks like a strip of lino, or maybe a threadbare piece of carpet, worn down by years of her continual walking.


A strong light illuminates her from the side and below, and her mother's ghostly face stares out from the shadows.


May's pacing represents the drudgery of life, and we discover a woman who seems to long for her existence to be terminated - apparently one of Beckett's favourite themes.


Both of these plays place considerable demands on the actors, and all the cast here rise to their various challenges with great poise and deft efficiency.


In Play, Rose Trustman, Ricky Zalman and Samantha Kamras have to deliver rapid-fire utterances synchronised with the inquisitive light shining on them - and they do so with spot on timing.


Lighting technician Oliver Fretz also deserves heaps of praise for his countless, speedy and expeditious changes of illumination, essential for the flow of the play.


In the atmospheric Footfalls, Anna Bonnett as May has to pace out 9 steps repetitively, with only a short spell of relief, requiring intense focus and substantial physical stamina to boot.


If you've seen Waiting for Godot - Beckett's most popular and best-known play - then you'll have an inkling of what to expect from this programme - you'll probably be challenged and won't necessarily leave the theatre in the comfortable contentment that you've understood everything you've just seen.


Or maybe I'm really talking about me being challenged and not fully understanding everything I saw!


Challenged or not, the rest of the audience seemed wholly engaged - you could have heard a proverbial pin drop for the duration, suggesting something close to the mood of reverence one finds at funerals.


In fact, both these plays are more akin to paintings - you don't necessarily appreciate every detail in what you see at a gallery, but you may get the gist of what an artist was trying to convey.


Detail in both Footfalls and Play doesn't matter that much - it's the endless, dreary repetition of life, and the continual raking over the coals of a guilt-ridden love affair that are the main ideas we're meant to take away.


Those rather gloomy considerations don't make for a particularly uplifting evening of theatre, even if we're offered some consolatory moments of wry humour in Play.


But John Patterson's impressively considered and well-executed interpretation of Beckett's motifs is certainly worth seeing not only on its own account, but also because these two interesting Beckett pieces don't come our way very often.



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