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Last night I have seen Peter Brook's production of "Come and Go", together with "Rough for Theatre I", "Rockaby", "Neither" and "Act without Words II". The title of the whole evening was "Fragments", and it lasted about an hour; "Come and Go" is the last little play staged, and one of the best pieces.
As most of my readers probably know, Beckett was a Nobel price for literature, author of great plays like "Waiting for Godot" (first staged in 1952) and "Endgame" (1956), and of smaller plays called with the French term "dramaticules" (little plays). They last from few minutes to seconds ("Breath", for instance, is just a breath, taking about half a minute). Beckett's most famous plays date back to the fifties; he died in 1989, and kept writing till the end.
"Rough for Theatre I" belongs to Beckett's production of the fifties. "Neither" is a very short and not particularly famous playlet; "Rockaby" is a splendid poetic brief play, where a lone woman rocks on a rocking chair, dressed in her glittering "best black" dress, musing about her memories of herself, her mother and her lonely life. "Act without Words II" sees two actors enveloped in white sacs, being compelled to come out of them and 'live' briefly by the summoning of an object coming from above, and "Come and Go" is a dramaticules from the Seventies.
Acted superbly by Jos Houben, Kathryn Hunter and Marcello Magni, "Come and Go" sees three women sitting on a bench, dressed very similarly and chatting sparsely about old times. In turn one woman "goes" and the remaining two confide a terrible secret about the one who just left. The secret is whispered to the other in her ear, so the public does not know what it is: as the preceding repartees are "Who do you find Ru? … I see little change… Does she know? God forbid!" we can only surmise that probably she is mortally ill. This is repeated three times, each about a different woman, therefore we realize that all the three women are in the same condition: all are probably doomed, and each doesn't know of her own fate, though aware of the others'.
The playlet is very gloomy, as always with this author; in the production we are discussing it is relieved by the fact that two of the three women are played by male actors, so there is some comic relief involved.
There is some disobedience to what the stage directions of the text prescribe (the three women should be very similar, which of course is not true here, and the lighting should be very dim, whereas here the stage is brightly lit); but the result, though a little less tragic, is very effective.
Peter Brook's production has been touring Europe, to celebrate the centenary of Beckett's birth, which occurred in 2006; I missed it in London, where in September it was completely sold out, and I managed instead to see it at the Teatro Valle in Rome, where it is closing today. In spite of some liberties taken with the texts, it is an effective, exciting and on the whole faithful celebration of the work of this great playwright.