by Lynn on November 2, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two reviews were broadcast on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 on CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, 89.5 FM. ENDGAME at the Young Centre until Nov. 17. SPEAKING IN TONGUES at the Berkeley Street Theatre until November 24.

The host was Rose Palmieri

1) Good Friday morning. After the wild Hurricane Sandy and Halloween in the same week, it’s time for some theatre talk by Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn. What do you have for us?

I’ve got two which fit right into the Halloween spirit. First, ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett, considered one of his greatest plays, which opened Halloween to confound and challenge us.

And SPEAKING IN TONGUES by Australian writer Andrew Bovell, which opened last night at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs. Also challenging, complex and mysterious.

2) Samuel Beckett has been confounding and challenging audiences for decades. So tell us about Endgame. What’s it about?

A blind man named Hamm sits in a wheel chair. He barks orders to his servant Clov who scurries hither and yon doing Hamm’s bidding. There are two large garbage cans to the side in which are Nell and Nagg, Hamm’s parents.

Hamm discourses on life, waiting for the inevitable and carrying on. Clov resents Hamm, longs to be free, but can’t go. Nell and Nagg wistfully remember better days, one assumes, out of the garbage cans. Nagg also seems an over sexed randy man and Nell humours him.

“Endgame” refers to the end of a chess game when the outcome is known. So we are looking at a metaphor for death, the end, call it what you like. But there is resilience there.

3) It sounds like there are similarities to WAITING FOR GODOT, one of Beckett’s masterpieces.

He wrote ENDGAME (also one of Beckett’s classics) in the 1950s, several years after WAITING FOR GODOT, but there certainly are echoes of WAITING FOR GODOT in ENDGAME.

In WAITING FOR GODOT two men wait for a third who never shows up. But they never leave. They philosophise about life, chance and waiting.

In ENDGAME Hamm and Clov do the same only they seem to be waiting for death, at least Hamm is. Clov longs to leave but can’t move.

In WAITING FOR GODOT there is a mean man named Pozzo who treats his servant Lucky like a slave. He is cruel and brutal. Later in the play Pozzo becomes blind.

In ENDGAME Hamm is blind but stuck in his wheelchair. He treats Clov with rudeness and meanness sometimes. But Clov gives it back to him. The sense of waiting, filling time, resilience and the need for companionship is so prevalent.

ENDGAME is Beckett at the top of his game. The writing is spare but effective. It’s killingly funny and achingly moving. And of course one always tries to figure out what Beckett meant and Beckett was notorious for not telling anyone what he meant. The fun is trying to figure it out for ourselves.

4) ENDGAME is presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company. How do they do with this tricky play?

Beautifully. This is the second time in their 15 year history they are doing the play, with the same director, Daniel Brooks. He wanted to revisit it to dig deeper. Brooks has such a clear vision of the play. His detail is fine.

It begins with the rise of a very slow, squeaky curtain and goes from there. Clov charges back and forth to look out a window high above him, remembers to get a ladder, climbs up, looks, climbs down and scurries to the other side of the to look out another window, but has to go back for the ladder. So it’s a life of grinding repetition.

As Clov, Diego Matamoros has that harried, downtrodden look, he is resilient and quietly defiant. As Hamm, Joseph Ziegler is almost delicate as he sits in the chair, but steely and imperious. He is wonderfully formal, and in a way so is Matamoros.

And our garbage can dwellers..As Nagg, Eric Peterson is bedraggled yet glinty-eyed and sexually charged. The object of his affections is Nell in the next garbage can, played with wide-eyed amazement by Maria Vacratsis. There is love and tenderness in this relationship.

5) Now for the challenging, complex and mysterious play, SPEAKING IN TONGUES. What’s the story?

As I said at the beginning, it’s written by Andrew Bovell who wrote the equally wonderful WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING, which had a terrific production at the Shaw Festival last year.

Bovell writes plays that are as intricate as finely woven lace. In SPEAKING IN TONGUES four actors play two or three characters each. In the first scene two couples are in a hotel room, obviously about to begin a tryst. Their speeches are the same for each couple. The intriguing thing, is that the couples are separate and not interacting. They are each playing out the tryst separately, even though their speech is given almost at the same time. We learn who they are and how they are in fact connected as the play goes on.

Act Two seems like a mystery—I won’t call it a murder mystery, because even that is in question. Initially you don’t get the sense that Act II has anything to do with Act I but Bovell slowly reveals how the two are connected.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES is an exquisite study in character, marriage, longing, love and responsibility.

6) Does this exquisite play get the production it deserves?

It does in spades. It’s produced by the spunky Company Theatre. A company that has been finding and producing some of the best theatre in the city. SPEAKING IN TONGUES is one of their best. It’s directed with vivid imagination and taste by Philip Riccio. He has staged and directed that tricky first scene so that we are never in doubt that we are watching two separate couples in their own affairs. He has his wonderful actors talking softly, almost conspiratorially, secretly, and we hold on to every single word.

John Thompson designed it and his lighting deserves special mention. Mere pinpricks of light highlight characters around the stage.

The cast is just some of the best artists anywhere. Richard Clarkin, Jonathan Goad, Helene Joy and Yanna McIntosh play their different characters in a way that is always clear, precise and full of the beating heart and soul of these often troubled characters.

ENDGAME and SPEAKING IN TONGUES are two terrific, vivid, strong productions. See them both, immediately.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

ENDGAME continues at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District until November 17

SPEAKING IN TONGUES plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs until November 24

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