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Culture

Daniel Radcliffe And Alan Cumming Are The Perfect Double Act In Endgame

Annie Simon Annie Simon - Commercial Editor

Daniel Radcliffe And Alan Cumming Are The Perfect Double Act In Endgame

The tragicomic duo tease out the dynamic humour in Samuel Beckett’s script and brilliantly refresh this apocalyptic classic.

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” rings the most self-aware line of Beckett’s Endgame— a sentiment that Director Richard Jones has certainly taken to heart in this lively double bill at the Old Vic. Jones first teases the audience with the 30-minute short play, Rough for Theatre II, though there’s no doubt that Endgame and it’s star-studded cast is the real success of the evening. 

Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe paint a vivid portrait of blind, ailing Hamm and his beleaguered manservant Clov. The pair operate in a marvellous tandem, delighting in tormenting each other. They are a perfect illustration of the most toxic of relationships.

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

Hamm orders Clov around relentlessly, threatening to withhold food from him and taking a kind of malicious enjoyment in being as demanding and particular as possible. “Forgive me,” he repeats throughout the play, but it is more of an order than a plea. Meanwhile, Clov seems to enjoy withholding Hamm’s painkillers and frequently threatens to abandon Hamm— though he admits that he has nowhere else to go. In this chess game, Hamm is the king (the most valuable piece, though unable to move freely), while Clov acts as a knight-figure, offering up his mobility in fealty to the royal power.      

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

Both actors shine in their respective roles. Cumming’s on-stage charisma cannot be faulted, he is a larger than life Hamm— a narcissistic, uber-villain in an old dressing gown. While Radcliffe’s raw anguish and daily agonies are almost painful to watch, and the erratic physicality he ascribes to Clov is convincing: his hobbling gait and precarious trips up and down the ladder serving to make Hamm’s despotic orders seem even more malevolent. 

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

Meanwhile, Karl Johnson and Jane Horrocks are absolutely magnetic as Hamm’s neglected parents, Nagg and Nell. They periodically surface from their dustbins to share gags aplenty and some tenderly pathetic attempts at affection. Their mini tragicomedy forms a standalone story that the audience would happily watch more of.   

The landscape of Endgame is about as bleak as it gets and Beckett’s apocalyptic world has a particular resonance in the current climate crisis. Radcliffe’s Clov expresses with an increasing frustration that ‘there are no tides anymore’ and ‘no more nature’, while both he and Hamm display a violent disapproval of the ‘cursed progenitor[s]’ who would bring more children into this dead planet. Perhaps if watching at another point in time we might have wondered what could have possibly happened for the world to end up in this state, but through our modern-day lens the answers are all too readily available. 

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

In this new iteration, Endgame feels fresh and almost painfully relevant, while the curtain-raiser, Rough for Theatre II is an evocative, philosophical entrée. Head down to The Old Vic for a wonderful evening of Beckett’s absurdist drama. Expect to leave with a lot of laughs and a newfound existential crisis. 

Endgame is running at The Old Vic until March 28. Get your tickets here.