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‘ENDGAME’ and ‘MAMGU’

As the second part of this double-bill, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame was superb. The production was another masterclass in what can be achieved with almost no set (yet what there was, was visually striking and meaningful). Against this minimal backdrop, the actors’ characterisation was allowed to shine, enhanced by the beautifully detailed and slightly ‘other-worldly’ costume and make-up. All the performances were equally strong and compelling, but inevitably it is the actor playing Hamm who has to carry the play, and Phil Jones’s performance was utterly convincing and entertaining. This was an expertly executed production, true to Beckett’s vision (and the restrictive demands his estate makes of all producers seeking the performance rights to his work) but also making this oblique world fresh and intriguing for a new audience.

Mamgu is a one-act devised piece, with a large, multi-generational cast. There was lots to admire in this work, based around a family coming to terms with the life and death of a much loved matriarchial figure (the Mamgu of the title). There were strong performances throughout and a very effective use of minimal set. Despite these strengths, Mamgu didn’t entirely satisfy as a fully realised piece of theatre. It felt fragmented, possibly a reflection of the devised process, where different contributors strove to make a coherent whole from disparate elements. A48 is setting out to take exactly these risks, to explore and to learn and Mamgu was definitely a risk worth taking. Alison Shephard