How it is (Part One)
Print Room at the Coronet
Reviewed – 4th May 2018
“At points it just feels as if the performers are reciting passages from the novel”
Gare St Lazare’s adaptation of Samual Beckett’s novel ‘How It Is’ at the Print Room at the Coronet is an intricate and interesting reimagining of the complicated and dense prose. To turn Beckett’s work, perhaps one of his most challenging texts, into performance is a mammoth task and director Judy Hegarty Lovett has a clear understanding of the ways in which to manipulate the performance space into one which can inhabit the intricacies of How It Is.
The story follows that of a man lying in the mud, repeating small moments of his life as he hears them, told to him by some other, mysterious voice. There is no real perception of time, place, or even person within the performance. The man is characterised through three actors: Conor Lovett, Stephen Dillane and Mel Mercier, and each is faultless in their performance. Lasting almost two hours, the performance consists almost entirely of spoken text, often with repeats and in an extremely minimalist writing style. As an audience member, there is an extreme level of concentration required in order to keep up with exactly what is going on through the veil of the ambiguous script. One can only marvel at the incredible stamina and sheer ability of each of the actors in maintaining an incredibly sleek performance with such a dense script.
The staging was especially interesting, with the audience sat on the stage and the performance happening over the two levels of audience seating and on the floor. The lighting, designed by Simon Bennison, was often dim but worked incredibly well with the concept of having the performance in the audience seating. The sound, composed by actor Mel Mercier, was also extremely atmospheric and really added to the performance.
All of the separate elements of this performance were outstanding, however when brought together they unfortunately lack the narrative and drama needed in theatre. At points it just feels as if the performers are reciting passages from the novel, standing or sitting still, with no real purpose. There are long passages in which actors speak over the top of each other, and whilst this is atmospheric at first, it loses traction when used repeatedly for five-minute intervals throughout the entire performance.
With no real visual stimulus to go on, the performance relies on the concentration and quick understanding of the audience to keep them engaged. All of the elements are there, but the adaptation for the stage is where the performance really lacks, often relying solely on the words of Beckett rather than using his language as a basis for a real, interesting performance which makes full use of the live and visual modes of theatre.
Reviewed by Charlotte Cox
Photography by Tristram Kenton
How it is (Part One)
Print Room at the Coronet until 19th May