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A CurtainUp London Review
Unlike the production that my colleague Les Gutman saw in New York (NY production review), this Irish production of Eh Joe remains true to Beckett's original although of course that was written for television. Canadian film maker Atom Egoyan directs. The problem has been in staging this piece to keep the intensity and attention it would have on camera. This is how Egoyan cleverly interprets it for stage using a camera for live projection.
The opening scene sees the great Gambon closing doors, checking windows and drawing curtains ready for the night. He stretches out those long fingered hands and in slow motion reaches up to adjust the drapes. Just as we feel sure no-one or nothing can penetrate his world which he has checked in the slowest of slow motion, a camera intrudes to project a close up of Gambon's face as he sits on the single cast iron framed bed. The projected face is ten times the size of the real one and almost fills the stage backdrop. We see the man in profile, the face full frontal.
Then the voice of a middle aged woman (Penelope Wilton) accuses. It is an unpleasant whining voice which uses the prodding, poking, penetrating Eh Joe? as an accusation, as a conjunction for her stream of complaining thoughts, repeated again and again. She lists his crimes against women. We can't be sure whether she is inside his mind or not. Gambon is motionless except for his eyes which seem to register fear and memory, maybe regret and shame if what the voice says is true. He says nothing. Nothing in his own defence, just that lined lugubrious expression looking hurt.
It works quite well but I would have preferred the voice not to have been recorded but live. It is an esoteric, mysterious dramatic event but interesting.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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