Review: Fragments

By John Nathan, September 4, 2008

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: 5:32pm, September 9 2008