Review: Fragments

By John Nathan, September 4, 2008
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Young Vic, London SE1

If it is laughter you are after, then hurry down to the Young Vic which is staging five short sketches by a very funny comedy writer called Samuel Beckett.

In one of the pieces, two men who each live in a bag are prodded awake by a giant pointy stick that descends from the sky. One of them is incurably grumpy; the other finds boundless joy in every menial task. It is hilarious.

Another piece sees three women share a bench. Each becomes the subject of the other two's outrageous gossip. A bit old-school, but still very funny.

Then there is the one about a blind man and a cripple. "Why don't you let yourself die?" asks the cripple. "Not unhappy enough," answers the blind man. "Unhappy," he adds, "but not unhappy enough." Really funny that one.

In a show that lasts just under an hour, these are some of the people who populate four playlets and one poem by a dramatist who unblinkingly observes the desolate in the human condition and the aspect of our existence which most can only bear to glance at - our mortality. Though not director Peter Brook, who shares Beckett's instinct to reduce a play to its minimalist core.

We may laugh at the Godot-like sketch with two poor wretches played by Marcello Magni and Khalifa Natour, and we may titter at Kathryn Hunter's tired woman who takes to her rocking chair - but only to hide our fearful whimpers, and to distract from the knowledge that the rocking chair will eventually tip her into a grave. (Tel: 020 7922 2922)

    Last updated: 4:32pm, September 9 2008