Happy Days

10/11/2009 at 2:23 pm Leave a comment

HAPPY DAYS

Belvoir St Theatre, November 2009

“Some find a dear fulfilment, some denial
But this I say
That he who best
enjoys each passing day
is truly blest”

Euripides – The Bacchae 405 BC
(Penguin Classics p 224)

Julie Forsythe is not so much buried in sand as encased in lava-rock, trapped, yet somehow irrepressible, her Winnie bubbles up through the blackened earth like a spring of optimism. The set is stark, post-apocalyptic and surreal, devoid of time or place (as is the way with Beckett) the jagged spires surround Winnie almost like a throne. For she is certainly queen of all she surveys, wherever it is.

This is not theatre as you know it. The conventions are all there, the lights, curtain, fanfare; but to experience Beckett’s dark fusion of symbolic imagery and existential musing one must forsake their expectations of “entertainment” – of the standard escapist narrative type. This is not the show that will distract you from the daily grind. Au contraire. It is a long hard look at a life made up of such futile diversions, as Winnie makes her way through a fiercely hot day, rummaging through her bag of tricks in ever more desperate stabs to stave off despair at her ludicrous situation.

Of course, the situation is entirely metaphoric. You can’t take Beckett literally. It would be like trying to describe the plot. Nor will reading him off the page make much sense either. It’s in the silences, the bits of business that performance brings to his work – so this bottomless pit of a visual metaphor become our own lives staring back at us like Nietzsche’s void. It’s hard to handle for some. In 2009 I think the questions Beckett is raising through this play are even more vexing now than they were almost fifty years ago– with so many more ways our attention is snapped around each day, little wonder some people leave before the second half. Fools that they are – given the uplifting power of the final moments I can only assume seeing half the play would exacerbate the ennui!

Time, memory and consciousness are the mercurial subjects for Beckett within this ode to the absurdity of the human condition. Director Michael Kantor and Forsythe (with terrific support from Peter Carroll) have fashioned an absorbing world where each dawn is a menacing alarm clock, each moment full of fear and joy. Everything from the weird fanfare at the opening to illusory tricks of the light in the second act is finely crafted here. A rare play in even rarer form – I’m going back next week.

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Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , .

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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

since 2009

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