As theatrical images go, there is no starker image than that which greets audiences at the beginning of Act 2 of Samuel Beckett’s HAPPY DAYS. The main character, Winnie, is buried up to her neck in a mound.
Not far behind is the image, at the play’s climax, of her husband Willie climbing up the mound to reach out to her.
Through the play Winnie has been trying to communicate with Willie to little avail. Willie has been responding to her in grunts.
Now Willie is trying to reach out to Winnie, when she doesn’t have a free arm to grasp onto him?!
Not funny. Just like the play isn’t about happy days. Hardly.
Belinda Giblin and Lex Marinos perform Beckett’s dark piece.
Giblin, one of Australia’s finest stage actors, cuts a tragic figure as her sunny, optimistic perspective on the daily rituals of life dims as she can’t even access, in the obsessive way that she has, the contents of her treasured handbag.
As Willie, Marinos has barely a word to say, with his performance carried by his insipid, malevolent presence.
Craig Baldwin’s production is as uncompromising as Beckett’s writing is.
Charles Davis’ stark set features a huge mound with strewn objects sitting on top, and next to it. On the wall behind is a faded poster, ironically advertising a holiday resort in Australia.
Shareeka Helaluddin’s edgy, screechy soundscape and Veronique Benett’s atmospheric, superb lighting made important contributions.
Leonard Cohen’s last album, released posthumously, was titled ‘Make It Darker’. I don’t think it is possible to make a play any darker.
HAPPY DAYS is playing the Old Fitzroy Theatre until 3 July, 2021. Performance times are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Sundays at 5pm and Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm.
Featured image : Lex Marinos in Red Line production of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Happy Days’. Pic Robert Catto