A division of opinion

Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby 

Birmingham Rep Studio


THERE are few playwrights who divide opinion quite as much as Samuel Beckett. Audience reaction to the performance probably reflected a more general sweep of opinion on one of our most provocative and challenging playwrights. Some were confused, others exhilerated. There is rarely a middle ground with Beckett.

Originating at The Royal Court, this trilogy of pieces features the highly technical skills of Actress, Lisa Dwan. Played in minimal lighting and stark surroundings, all focus is on the delivery and performance. What is said are often random and seemingly disjointed stories with logical progressions being replaced by utterances that form a rapid stream of conscience.

Any conclusions and interpretations are for the audience to make themselves. Whilst not therefore necessarily ' entertaining' in the traditional sense, there is a real sense of witnessing something unique and special - something outside the usual realms of populist entertainment.

' Not I ' is a masterclass in linguistic prowess and delivery. Thoughts are regurgitated at break neck speed. Sentences, often without the restriction or hinderence of punctuation, are hurled at the audience who sit in pitch darkness. All we see is the mouth delivering the monologue. A technical and mesmeric tour de force that leaves the listener enthralled, if not a little dumbfounded.

The second piece ' Footfalls' sees a ' dialogue' between a middle aged woman and her dying mother - both played with eerie precision by Dwan. Again, lighting and setting is stripped back to allow the performance to shine.

' Rockably', the final piece, gives Dwan a chance to rest her vocals as she reacts to a voice recounting moments from her past. Visually simple but always precise and challenging.

Running for around an hour with no interval, this is brave and unconventional theatre of a type rarely seen outside London. Given the audience numbers on its first night in Birmingham, it is a welcome addition to the Reps eclectic programme.To 20-09-14

Tom Roberts




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