Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby
Royal Court Theatre Production
Duchess Theatre, London
Friday 7th February 2014
Starting with a front of house warning - the theatre is about to go dark, really dark, and if this makes you uncomfortable please make yourself known now - a strange tension is built before the show begins. Then the theatre really does go as dark as the warning suggests, with just the lips of the wonderfully talented Lisa Dwan lit from up close so as not to leak any unnecessary extra light. Not I is the first and most famous of this trilogy of Samuel Beckett mini-plays, and in a way is the most affecting. Rattling through the random thoughts and feelings of one woman through her life of loneliness and fear, this stream of consciousness piece can less be listened to than absorbed. Allowing the words to wash over the audience, one begins to pick out certain phrases and even stories deep with significance of the character's unhappiness, exemplified with the frequent use of "she" rather than "I", distancing herself from herself.
A short break leads into the second piece, Footfalls, which sees the same actress pacing up and down outside her mother's sickroom. With careful choices in both costuming and lighting the lonely woman resembles an unhappy ghost. As she pauses between paces she reveals small details of her sad life, and we also hear excerpts from the unseen mother who pities her child, commiserating the many years of misery she has ahead of her.
Rockaby sees the final minutes of a woman, rocking herself constantly in a rocking chair until her eventual and welcomed death. She is another sad and lonely character, seeking "another living soul" and seeming to have never been satisfied with her lot. She finally rocks herself to death, leaving us with a phrase that seems to sum up the feeling she has been describing; "Fuck Life".
The evening is lifted from this seemingly horrific gloom however, by the beauty of Liz Dwan's powerhouse performance. Such concentration in this one-woman show, exploring these frustratingly fragmented characters and bringing them to spooky, gloomy life, must be an exhausting challenge which this excellent actress lives up to with flair. Rather than leaving the theatre depressed, ones thoughts are provoked and interest is piqued. An exhilarating evening.