Happy Days, Arts Theatre, London
Kendal up to her neck in stunning revival of Beckett
Wednesday 19 November 2003
This is an evening that reverberates with theatrical memories. In 1976, Peter Hall inaugurated the National Theatre's new building on the South Bank with an acclaimed production of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days , starring Peggy Ashcroft.
Now he is having a second stab, at the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square. For this expert, loving re-examination, he has cast Felicity Kendal as Winnie, who is buried up to her waist in the first act and up to her neck in the second.
With a striking set by his daughter Lucy, Hall reinvigorates the shock value of that now classic metaphor for life as a process of gradual entombment. We are presented with a more intrusive, aerial perspective on Winnie than normal.
She juts out from the centre of a tilted-up spiral of earth that looks like the electric ring of a Baby Belling as magnified and reimagined by the Surrealist movement.
Kendal is a very English actress, but I'm delighted to report that here she affects (and very convincingly, too) the Irish accent written into the rhythms of Winnie's near-monologue.
Some interpreters keep us guessing about the level of the heroine's self-deception. But in her moving performance, Kendal lets you hear the gasping panic under Winnie's bright protestations. Pale and drawn, she alerts you to how the character's clichéd clutchings at optimism tend to be curiously qualified. "This will have been another happy day! [Pause] After all. [Pause] So far." The way that confidence leaks out of that peculiar declaration is hilarious and heartbreaking in Kendal's delivery.
Hall proves once again that there is no finer conductor of Beckett's verbal music, and that no dramatist is as paradoxically life-affirming.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God