A C.I.C.T/ Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord and Young Vic co-production
If only I had the writing ability of Samuel Beckett, this review of Fragments would be about ten words long and describe this production with absolute accuracy; not a word wasted.
Sadly I am not Beckett and, as you can probably tell, it is going to take me a few more words to convey my thoughts.
Fragments, directed by Peter Brook, returns to the Young Vic after its sell out run last year. Five short pieces, all with their own individual stories, yet still very much one whole piece - essentially an exploration of human nature.
As you would expect from a Beckett play directed by Brook, the stage is virtually bare; after all, that is what our imagination is for. Fragments, like much of Beckett's other work, is all about the words and yet simultaneously it is not. His frugal use of dialogue reveals the significance of every word. This is particularly true of the second piece Rockaby where the same few sentences are repeated continuously by the extremely talented Kathryn Hunter. With each repetition comes a different and completely new interpretation, identifying the flexibility and contradictions of language.
Juxtaposed with Rockaby is Act Without Words II, in which Marcello Magni and Khalifa Natour clown about and words are redundant. Reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy, although never slapstick, two men react in very different ways to their bizarre circumstances. Aside from the occasional moment of playing for laughs, there is truthfulness to these bizarre characters and, as with the other pieces, the action whilst nonsensical somehow makes complete sense.
At a quick glance Fragments is about nothing and yet it is about everything. Beckett skilfully communicates what it would take another playwright three acts and a cast of twenty to say. Beckett's observations of mankind are taken a step further by Brook's direction. Another director may have been tempted to over-complicate things, afraid to keep things simple. Brook has the courage to do just that and through this production's simplicity, the absurdity of Beckett's writing rings incredibly true.
One can very easily fall into the trap of taking an academic approach to Beckett's work, over analysing every moment, considering its intentions and ironically in doing this miss the very essence of what he is trying to say. Life is absurd; can it ever be fully understood?
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan