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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Eh Joe
Duke of York's Theatre July 2006

In Samuel Beckett's half-hour television play the camera slowly moves in on a close-up of an aged man's face as the voice of an unseen woman taunts him with reminders of the people - parents and lovers - who loved him in the past. Gradually we sense that the torment in his face is not so much for the loss but for the pain of having been loved at all.

Translating this to the stage, as Dublin's Gate Theatre did for the Beckett Centenary this year, poses obvious problems, which director Atom Egoyan addressed by having the actor - Michael Gambon - seen in profile onstage while a camera in the wings projected a full-face image on a large scrim. The recorded unseen voice is that of Penelope Wilton.

What is gained from seeing the play this way? Frankly, not a whole lot. With Gambon's face projected so many times larger than a normal TV screen, we see every tiny movement - the flash of fear in his eyes at one memory, the tremble of a lip at another. And seeing the actor himself alongside his image, we are particularly aware of how very still he is otherwise.

The play itself is surprisingly moving, as most of Beckett's minimalist pieces are, since stripping away all distractions makes us face raw emotion.  And Michael Gambon is always worth seeing, even if he is doing almost nothing. Indeed, for an actor who has tended to operate in broad strokes, the subtlety required here suggests new possibilities for him as a performer.

The London run is being done twice nightly for only three weeks, at half normal ticket prices. So, although you could probably get almost the same experience on your home telly, a ticket will cost less than a DVD.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Eh Joe - Duke of York's 2006