Check out all the positive reviews garnered by STC’s Endgame after its official opening night!
Weaving’s achievement is to animate this severely impaired non-hero as a vivacious, almost endearing master of his own universe: king of a nutshell. Fuelled by a bonfire of charisma, Weaving turns Happ’s insufferably tedious monologues into joyful entertainment.
This is truly the endgame of life and Weaving plays out the repeated stories, word games and deadpan humour like a real fruity-voiced thespian, a connoisseur of impending mortality working away his busy fingers like a mad Steptoe.
But Hugo Weaving has successfully made this one of the ‘not to be missed’ productions of the year.
Weaving is simply masterful in the role of Hamm; he is cruel and selfish, bound to a chair, unable to stand. Hamm has lost the use of his eyes and for the actor, it is a hard slog. However, you wouldn’t know this with Mr Weaving at the helm. Aided by only voice and gesture, Weaving commands the stage from his immobile position, no small feat. In a word, his performance is faultless as he weaves through the dialogue with effortless musicality, each syllable ringing in our ears, bringing the lyricism of Beckett to life. This is Shakespeare for the existentialist, and Weaving is in fine if not perfect form.
The playing style here is full of relish and is often very funny. Weaving’s acting has seldom been better, as he throws himself with apparent delight into each new futile game, joke or story. His hands, arms and face, the only means of expression Hamm has left, move constantly, flailing and grimacing desperately against the dying of the light.
Beckett and love are not two words lightly thrown together, and yet it is the nuanced subtlety and deep emotional energy shared between Weaving as Hamm, and Tom Budge’s Clov that give this production its frisson.
An even darker and more constricted world than Vladimir and Estragon’s, in Endgame Weaving’s Hamm sits front and centre – an ailing tyrant – reminiscent of an ancient world Eastern potentate with toque and gaff for crown and sceptre, clinging to his vanity and worth as the world around him declines.
Weaving shines. Despite Hamm’s brutality towards his parents, he still inspires pathos through his flights of grandeur, his lugubrious grasp of loss and his fleeting moments of tenderness for Clov
Hugo Weaving is brilliantly cast as Hamm, delivering a performance which is at once technical and detailed, focusing on the minutiae of his character’s experience, while embracing the broad emotional sweep of the play. The vocal lines he draws through Beckett’s words are engrossing and musical enough that you could simply shut your eyes and listen.
Hugo Weaving, the production’s drawcard, is in masterful form.
Beckett denies the actor of his Hamm the use of his eyes as well as legs, which makes the voice of vital importance. Weaving responds to the challenge magnificently with an impeccably enunciated repertoire of stagey growls, tempestuous barks, velvety grandiloquence and wheezy resignation. There’s plenty of salty old ham in this Hamm (at one point, his tongue makes a showstopping appearance and it’s all you can do not to give it a round of applause) but there’s humanity, too.
Weaving’s Hamm is erratic, vicious, spiteful and crazed, but also saccharine, flamboyant, sentimental and heartbreakingly frail. When certain lines are repeated, they are deliberately delivered as a verbatim replica of the original, as if these words have been uttered this way, over and over, time and time again like a record stuck in a groove. Despite Beckett bestowing paralysis and blindness on this character, Weaving is a colossal presence extracting an astonishingly rich spectrum of emotional extremities to the point of bathos. While Budge’s Clov doesn’t cover anywhere near the same emotional ground, his simpering, knock-kneed, part-jester-part-Caliban delivery is deeply endearing and makes an ideal foil for Weaving’s more shaded and dominate performance.
Hugo Weaving is mesmeric as the hideous and hateful Hamm. Even in a wheelchair with legs bound and eyes obscured behind opaque spectacles, the star is irresistibly charismatic, and completely enthralling. Edith Piaf was said to have declared that she could sing the phone book and make it sound great. Similarly, Weaving captivates us with every word, even when we find our minds struggling to match the depth of what is being expounded. The extreme meticulousness of his approach seizes our attention, and the wild and unpredictable flourishes he builds into every scene and stanza is truly magnificent to witness. Endgame discusses the distinctions between meaninglessness and meaningfulness. Under Weaving’s spell, all that unfolds feels meaningful, and we are encouraged to seek a cerebral equivalent to the emotional sensations delivered to our gut.
All pics by Lisa Tomasetti: