Young Vic Theatre, London SE1
September, 2008

One instance of the personal and the professional interacting beautifully: Blanche Marvin, the redoubtable octogenarian editor of London Theatreviews, has recently been laid up recovering from an operation.  This meant that she was unable, for instance, to get to the Young Vic to see the Beckett programme Fragments, directed by Peter Brook with whom she has had a long association (presenting an annual batch of Empty Space Awards to London venues in honour of Brook’s theatrical philosophy).  Enter the Independent’s Paul Taylor, dressed as Jimmy Savile and ready to Fix It for her; Paul phoned the Young Vic, phoned Brook, phoned Blanche (somehow keeping it a secret from her), and arranged that one afternoon Kathryn Hunter arrived to perform Rockaby in Blanche’s own living room.  Now that’s a command performance.

It may seem rather pusillanimous to follow that story by remarking that I’m surprised Fragments was as well received critically as it has been.  Hunter’s Rockaby is staged minus the rocking chair, minus the rocking rhythm of the lines, and minus the voice-over delivery of those lines; the package also includes a performance of Act Without Words, er, with some words.  I’m not entirely sure this Brook chap has got the point of Beckett’s plays; and I’m damned certain that, if anyone less celebrated had taken such liberties with the playwright’s works in performance, the notoriously protective Beckett literary estate would have banned all concerned from future productions. 

Written for Theatre Record.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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