It is, however, rare, to watch a play with the whole-hearted belief that only that particular performer could pull it off.
Lisa Dwan is Samuel Beckett in performance. Her extraordinary ability to voice the vision of the Nobel-prize-winning writer is well-documented, but the glowing reviews can’t capture the experience of seeing Dwan in action.
In No’s Knife she makes Beckett’s dense, little known and deeply challenging essay, which was never intended for the stage, into a theatrical spectacle.
The text itself is obscure - stiflingly so.
No’s Knife is not something to understand; it’s an experience, a series of sensations. It’s Samuel Beckett at his most intensely Modernist, with strands of the uneasy absurdity in Waiting for Godot and Endgame and a deeper, more visceral preoccupation with being.
Existential concepts of voice, story and body swirl together in a stream of words. The emotional range is vast and encompassing. Don’t go looking for linear narrative and don’t be alarmed when vast swathes of speech flow right over your head.
As the prose was not written for performance, it is free from Beckett’s notoriously extreme and exact stage directions. Instead of pre-ordained pauses, it is the musicality of the language that punctuates the language and varies the pace. Given creative free-reign over the staging, designer Christoper Oram creates an atmospheric yet abstract wasteland, with blackout scene changes creating new disorientating landscapes.
But the sheer emotional intensity and range of Dwan’s performance is enough to immobilise audiences. Glasses of wine are untouched, eyes fixed wide and, when the entire auditorium erupts into supressed coughs with each blackout scene change, you realise the full transfixing force of Dwan’s stage presence.
That, we think, is more than enough to make 70 minutes of theatre worthwhile… even if you spend much of that time with little clue about what’s going on.
|No's Knife, Old Vic review
|The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB | MAP
29 Sep 16 – 15 Oct 16, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
|£10 - £35
|Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets