The stage is empty but for a single armchair and two dustbins. A sheet is draped over what appears to be a figure sitting in the chair. This is the famous opening tableaux of Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame. Endgame premiered in French at the Royal Court theatre in London in 1957, following on from Beckett’s breakthrough play Waiting for Godot, which four years earlier had shocked the dramatic world and defined an enduring notoriety for the playwright. The shorthand for Endgame is that two of the play’s characters inhabit dustbins, and the central character is blind and unable to move from his chair; in other words, another difficult, existential drama that challenges theatrical convention and our understanding. But it is also a play that can be very funny, as shown in the recent revival at the Old Vic in London starring Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Cumming.
To explore the method, meaning and impact of Beckett’s startlingly original play, I am joined by Beckett expert, Dr Matthew McFrederick, Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Reading.
My conversation with Matt was recorded via video link during the early days of the lockdown for the Coronavirus.