Edinburgh 2013: Eh Joe - Samuel Beckett's TV play starring Penelope Wilton
As Penelope Wilton recounts his appalling treatment of her predecessors and successors in Joe’s bed, Michael Gambon’s face is projected onto the gauze. Throughout the 30 minutes of the piece, he says not a word. We are aware of his hunched figure, wrapped in a rancid dressing gown, but it is the folds and craters of his face that tell us the story.
We can see his mouth drying as Wilton asks if there is anyone living who loves him now. Even his hair emotes. The scar-like pouches beneath his eyes, the vertical ridges on his neck quiver and jump. When, at one point, his hand enters the screen, it's almost too much.
Samuel Beckett wrote Eh Joe in 1966 as a TV play. This version, directed by Canadian film and theatre maker Atom Egoyan, was first seen at the Gate Theatre in Dublin and is part of a Festival series of work written by Beckett for radio and television. Beckett was a technical innovator in his own lifetime and these loving versions of 50-odd-year-old texts keep the spirit while bringing them alive for the iPad generation.
Egoyan’s use of projection is a simple idea that immediately marries the unforgiving close up of the small screen with the thrill of live performance. Gambon, a master of both, is the perfect interpreter. (And, for those of us who dabble in the middle as well as the high ends of culture, casting Penelope Wilton brings the delightful frisson of hearing Downton Abbey’s deeply worthy Isobel Crawley annunciating "slut" and "lavender slip".)
The combination of her crystal diction - we learn that Joe really fancied her voice, which he accurately described as "like flint glass" - and his heartless, thoughtless behaviour, moves him to tears. Real, ugly, bloodshot ones. Having found someone cleaner, and capable of fidelity, she has survived to return (albeit as a recorded, disembodied voice) and present him with an update on those who have not.
At half an hour this may be the shortest show at the festival but there is nothing miniature about it. Any more would have been unbearable.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 Picture of couple posing with beached dolphin 'that later died' causes outrage
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio returns with a blend of fireworks, AC/DC and 'automotive pornography'
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland