I’ll Go On
5 stars *****
Royal Lyceum Theatre
IT’S A STRANGE fact about Samuel Beckett that although he gazes more relentlessly at death than any other writer in the canon, he is also memorably and hilariously funny about life and mortality. His best-known play, Waiting For Godot, is famously inspired by some of the music-hall double-acts he saw as a young man. And now the magnificent Barry McGovern returns to the Royal Lyceum with his superb solo adaptation of Beckett’s three novels Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, presented with a dark comic flair, and a pure joy in Beckett’s wicked way with language, that often has the audience shouting with laughter, and bursting into spontaneous applause.
There’s more than humour, of course, to the long arc of Beckett’s trilogy, which begins with the sheer absurdity of the life of the peg-legged Molloy, on an ill-starred journey around Dublin, and ends with a brief, bare-chested near-death monologue based on The Unnamable. It’s a measure of Beckett’s greatness, though, that he drew so much of the strength of his writing from the gritty stuff of popular entertainment, its dark humour and instinctive theatricality; and McGovern is a great actor who might have been born to make that greatness visible to us, in a performance to be celebrated, cherished, and cheered to the echo.