March 27, 2015
Before Troy McClure, before Oscar The Grouch, there was a duo of bin-dwelling pioneers by the name of Nagg and Nell. Parents of Hamm, the pro/antagonist of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, they are married, legless, and living out their days in dustbins. In the upcoming Sydney Theatre Company production (featuring Hugo Weaving as Hamm and Tom Budge as Clov, his son) Peirse and Bruce Spence play the legless parents.
Peirse’s last stage role was in November of last year in another STC production, playing the reclusive and alcoholic author Patricia Highsmith in Joanna Murray-Smith’s Switzerland.
“The chance to work in Beckett, I was always going to do that, but then to work again with Andrew directing, I was really keen to do that. My role in Endgame is reasonably small, but it’s great, it’s a very playful, open rehearsal space,” Peirse says of the role that has her back at the Wharf in rehearsals. However that open space has rapidly closed with the introduction of the bins she and Bruce Spence shall occupy. “Bruce is not a small man, he’s actually had to fold himself up quite considerably to get in the bin, I’m glad I’m not as tall as him,” Peirse jests.
Perhaps best known, at least in her home country of New Zealand, for portraying mothers Honora Parker in Heavenly Creatures and Kate in Rain, Peirse says the physical constraints placed on the parents in Endgame brings an element of screen acting to the role.
“I’m very fortunate I’ve recently had some fabulous roles and I’m enjoying the shift in focus and the change in the scale of what it is to perform something that is confined to being in a rubbish bin, you have to exercise quite a bit of choice and be fairly careful with what you’re up to.
“In a funny kind of way aspects of being in the rubbish bin are a bit like being in film close up, you’ve only got your face and your neck and shoulders, a little bit of your hands and arms – you’re not really operating with full use or arriving on stage or leaving it in the way you might ordinarily with any other character. Beckett wrote quite a bit of physically constrained work; in Happy Days the character is buried up to her waist and then up to her neck; and there’s another piece where there’s only lips, then there’s another piece with just voice, the lights don’t even turn on, so he’s played with all the different elements of containment of an actor’s possibility and that’s really interesting to work with.”