Gare St. Lazare Players: FIRST LOVE
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
PROLOGUE: Tall Matt Haynes sits in his study, fighting off sleepiness, pushing himself to finish this blog entry so he can take tomorrow completely off. He needs to write about a Beckett piece he just saw. He doesn’t like Beckett. He didn’t really have a good time. Yet he can’t in good conscience say that Beckett is baloney nor that this was an ineffective production. If he’s going to finish this blog at a reasonable hour, Tall Matt Haynes is going to need some help. He thus turns to a master for council on his experience watching FIRST LOVE by Samuel Beckett, directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett and starring Connor Lovett.

In THE EMPTY SPACE, the great director and theorist Peter Brook writes “Beckett’s action on some of his audience is exactly like the action of [the confounding] situation on the leading character. The audience wriggles, squirms and yawns, it walks out or else invents and prints every form of imaginary complaint as a mechanism to ward off the uncomfortable truth.” (p 58-59)
Yep, that was my experience in a nutshell: Trapped in a seating space that was too small for the fleshified stilts that are my legs, I wriggled and squirmed as I watched Connor Lovett’s protagonist wriggle and squirm on stage, trapped in a mental space that is too small for the human experience. I yawned, he didn’t. But he walked out before I did so I think the score is tied.
Let me be clear: This evening did not feel like a prank. There was no “provokateur” sloppily fucking with the audience for self amusement then implying that they should do some soul searching for being annoyed. This was an evening where we contracted to be wired up to an alternate human thought system, exiting re-sensitized to the absurdities of our own thought systems (like the old trick of putting a yellow sheet against a wall then taking it away so the eye can flash on its purple imprint). Lovett and his comic rhythms are engaging. The story does have a narrative (albeit a fragmented one). There is enough dick and doody humor to remind us that we’re all human, here.
I say we “contracted” to be wired up then re-sensitized. I don’t say that the experience completely works for me or was entertaining in the sense of being pleasant. It’s time for me to confess: I’m a climax junkie. If you’re going to make me happy watching one work for 80 minutes you’ve got to give me my stakes and my cliff-hangers. If you’re not giving that then it’s gotta be short (8 minutes rather than 80) so I can take my breathers.
And so I sadly peer through my aesthetic bars at the Beckett paradise Peter Brook promises to the enlightened: “There is after all quite another audience, Beckett’s audience; those in every country who do not set up intellectual barriers, who do not try too hard to analyse the message. This audience laughs and cries out- and in the end celebrates with Beckett; this audience leaves his plays, his black plays, nourished and enriched, with a lighter heart, full of a strange irrational joy. Poetry, nobility, beauty, magic– suddenly these suspect words are back in the theatre once more.” (Empty Space, p59)
Ah, Mr. Brook. This production would do ye’ proud. How ’bout you go see it and translate its joy into your next kick-ass Shakespeare production for me?