Review | BSSTC ponder life, death and the stepladder in Endgame

Endgame | State Theatre Centre
Until June 11th |  ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Anyone familiar with the Theatre of the Absurd knows exactly what to expect from the genre’s foremost creator Samuel Beckett.

To tell my companion that the performance would indeed be ‘absurd’ was obviously insufficient as he asked if we had watched a feature-length advertisement for stepladders upon exiting the Heath Ledger Theatre. A final confirmation for me that Black Swan State Theatre Company and Founding Director Andrew Ross had done justice to Beckett’s work with their latest production.

Endgame‘s story revolves on the axis of Hamm (Geoff Kelso), a blind man who cannot stand, seemingly trapped in his crooked bare home with his loyal servant Clov (Kelton Pell) and two barrels which house his legless parents Nagg (Caroline McKenzie) and Nell (George Shevstov).

This is really all the audience is told about these four mysterious characters, as Hamm grumbles through his existence confined to his arm chair. The dialogue may seem jarring at first, as the four speak almost entirely in metaphor – but listening a little closer reveals a deeper exploration of life, death and existence amidst the madness.

Incongruous dialogue is not the only way Ross uses Beckett’s work to play with the audience. A bare, asymmetrical set and a palpable lack of music force the audience to pay close attention to the words of the play – where the key to understanding the piece lies.

In all of its confronting strangeness, BSSTC make the dialogue-heavy performance both beautiful and funny thanks to the incredible performances of the four veteran players.

Kelso effortlessly delivered each syllable imbued with such meaning that the audience could understand even the most outlandish phrases from Beckett’s page, and Shevstov stole every short moment on the stage with his delirious portrayal of Hamm’s legless, barrel-bound father.

Don’t expect to leave Endgame fully understanding what you saw, for I’m certain even Beckett did not fully understand – this is how the genre earned its name. If you’ve never seen a piece of absurd theatre, BSSTC’s latest production is the perfect primer to the uncanny world of Samuel Beckett and the great usefulness of the stepladder.

Endgame will be showing at the State Theatre Centre until Sunday June 11. Tickets and more information available from

Leigh Andrew Hill

Image:- Daniel James Grant

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